This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Daniel Greg Inman,
Filed February 4, 2004
Scott County District Court
File No. K-01-07273
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Patrick J. Ciliberto, Scott County Attorney, Todd P. Zettler, Special Assistant County Attorney, Government Center JC340, 200 Fourth Avenue West, Shakopee, MN 55379-1220 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Jodie L. Carlson, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Anderson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges his convictions of manufacturing methamphetamine and possessing methamphetamine, arguing that the district court erred by not suppressing a statement that he made during custodial interrogation. Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion by ruling that appellant’s prior convictions of escape from custody and assault were admissible for purposes of impeachment. Because we find no error or abuse of discretion by the district court, we affirm.
On April 19, 2001, agents of the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force, along with DEA agents and Prior Lake police officers, executed a search warrant at Paul Becksted’s residence in Prior Lake and found appellant Daniel Greg Inman and Becksted in a basement bedroom standing next to the “workings of a methamphetamine lab.” Officers arrested Inman and transported him to the Scott County Jail, where he was interviewed by Carver County Deputy Schmidtke.
At a January 9, 2002 omnibus hearing, Inman challenged the admissibility of the statement that he had given during the interview, asserting that Deputy Schmidtke had violated the Scales recording requirement by not recording the interview. Inman did not testify at the omnibus hearing. Deputy Schmidtke testified that (1) upon entering the interview room, Inman stated that he would talk to Deputy Schmidtke but that Inman did not want the conversation to be recorded; (2) he did not turn on the tape recorder because of Inman’s request; (3) he read Inman his Miranda rights; and (4) Inman stated that he understood his rights and then said that he and Becksted were trying to make methamphetamine when they were arrested. The omnibus court denied Inman’s motion to suppress his statement, finding that Deputy Schmidtke’s failure to record Inman’s statements during the interview was not a substantial Scales violation because Inman had requested that his statement not be recorded.
At trial, Inman testified that (1) when he was interviewed by Deputy Schmidtke, he told Deputy Schmidtke that he did not want to be recorded; (2) he did not waive his right to remain silent and did not give a statement; (3) he did not make any methamphetamine with Becksted; and (4) he did not know that Becksted had been making methamphetamine. Becksted testified that he and Inman were attempting to make methamphetamine on April 19, 2001. And Deputy Schmidtke testified consistently with his testimony at the omnibus hearing. The jury convicted Inman of one count of first-degree controlled-substance crime, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 2a (2000) (manufacture of methamphetamine), and one count of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.025, subd. 2, 609.05 (2000) (possession of methamphetamine). This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
Inman argues that the omnibus court erred by not suppressing the statement that he made during custodial interrogation, contending that Deputy Schmidtke’s failure to record his interrogation as required by State v. Scales warrants relief. 518 N.W.2d 587 (Minn. 1994). In Scales, the Minnesota Supreme Court directed that all custodial interrogations should be electronically recorded when feasible and must be recorded when questioning occurs at a place of detention. Id. at 592. The rationale of the Scales recording requirement is to avoid factual disputes when a claim is made that the accused’s constitutional rights were violated. Id. at 591-92; see also State v. Miller, 573 N.W.2d 661, 674 (Minn. 1998) (iterating that Scales requirement is intended to prevent factual disputes about the existence and context of Miranda warnings and any ensuing waiver of rights).
In Scales, the supreme court held that the district court may suppress any statements made during an unrecorded interrogation if it finds that the violation of the recording requirement is substantial. Scales, 518 N.W.2d at 592. The determination of whether a violation is substantial is made on a case-by-case basis, considering all relevant circumstances, including the extent of the deviation from lawful conduct, the willfulness of the violation, the extent to which the violation would lead the defendant to misunderstand his legal rights, the extent to which the violation influenced the defendant’s decision to make the statement, and the extent to which exclusion of the statement will prevent other violations. Id. at 592-93 n.5. The district court’s factual findings are subject to a clearly erroneous standard of review, but whether a “substantial violation” of the Scales requirement occurred is a legal question, which we review de novo. State v. Critt, 554 N.W.2d 93, 95 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Nov. 20, 1996).
Inman argues that the district court erred by determining that there was not a substantial Scales violation because Deputy Schmidtke’s failure to record was willful. First,Inman asserts that Deputy Schmidtke willfully violated the Scales requirement because he testified that he was aware that he was supposed to record the custodial interrogation and did not do so. This court has held in an unpublished opinion that an officer’s failure to record a custodial interrogation is not “willful” when the defendant has requested that the interrogation not be recorded and there is evidence that the officer would have recorded the interrogation absent the defendant’s request. See State v. Chang, No. C6-00-1416, 2001 WL 536975, at *2 (Minn. App. May 22, 2001) (stating that “although [the interviewing officer’s] action was willful in that he voluntarily turned off the recorder, it was not done to accomplish perfecting his own way or desire”), review denied (Minn. Aug. 15, 2001). While State v. Chang is not precedential, we find its reasoning persuasive and adopt that reasoning here.
Second, Inman contends that Deputy Schmidtke willfully violated Scales because the record shows that the failure to record suspects’ statements is a pattern with Schmidtke and the “entire drug task force.” Inman cites section 150.3(2)(a) of the Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure, which provides that “[a] violation shall be deemed willful regardless of the good faith of the individual officer if it appears to be part of the practice of the law enforcement agency.” Inman asserts that the fact that Schmidtke also did not record the statements of Inman’s two co-defendants is a “suspicious coincidence” indicating a pattern of failing to record. Citing section 150.3(2) of the Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure, the district court implicitly rejected Inman’s argument when it determined that there had not been a substantial Scales violation. Because (1) Schmidtke testified that it is his normal practice to record every interrogation and that the only reason he did not record here was Inman requested that he not record and (2) nothing in the record shows that failure to record is the practice of the law-enforcement agency that employs Schmidtke, the district court’s implicit finding that failure to record is not the practice of Schmidtke or the “entire drug force” is not clearly erroneous.
Here, although Deputy Schmidtke did not record any part of the custodial interrogation, we nevertheless conclude that there was not a substantial violation of the Scales recording requirement because Deputy Schmidtke’s failure to record was not willful. It is undisputed that Inman requested that the interrogation not be recorded, and the record indicates that Schmidtke would have recorded the interrogation absent Inman’s request. Thus, the suppression of Inman’s statement would not serve the end of preventing future Scales violations.
(1) the impeachment value of the prior crime, (2) the date of the conviction and the defendant’s subsequent history, (3) the similarity of the past crime with the charged crime (the greater the similarity, the greater the reason for not permitting use of the prior crime to impeach), (4) the importance of defendant’s testimony, and (5) the centrality of the credibility issue.
Inman argues that his prior crimes had little impeachment value because they were not crimes of dishonesty. But the fact that a crime does not directly involve truth or falsity does not mean that evidence of the conviction has no impeachment value. State v. Brouillette, 286 N.W.2d 702, 708 (Minn. 1979) (stating that “a prior conviction, though not specifically involving veracity, is nevertheless probative of credibility”); State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 487 (Minn. 1988).
Courts usually examine the date of the conviction and the defendant’s subsequent history “to determine whether the prior offense has lost its relevance over the passage of time.” Vanhouse, 634 N.W.2d at 719-20. Here, the prior convictions were not stale; one occurred in 2000 and the other in 1998.
The greater the difference between a prior crime and the current offense, the less prejudicial the prior conviction is for impeachment purposes. Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d at 586-87. Inman asserts that, although his prior convictions are dissimilar to the drug offenses with which he was charged, evidence of the prior convictions was prejudicial because his domestic-assault conviction “suggests a propensity for violence” and the prior convictions give the “unavoidable” impression that Inman has “extensive experience in the criminal justice system.” But the lack of similarity between the prior convictions and the charged offenses here reduced the likelihood that the jury would use the evidence substantively rather than merely for impeachment purposes.
If the admission of prior convictions deters a defendant from testifying and prevents the jury from hearing a defendant’s version of events, this weighs against the admission of such evidence. State v. Gassler, 505 N.W.2d 62, 67 (Minn. 1993). When alternative evidence exists to prove the defendant’s theory of the case, the court is more likely to allow prior-conviction evidence for impeachment. State v. Kissner, 541 N.W.2d 317, 324 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Feb. 9, 1996). A defendant’s testimony is less important when there is other testimony available to support his theory. Id. Here, Inman’s testimony was the only evidence that could support his theory that he was not manufacturing methamphetamine when he was arrested. This weighs against admitting his prior convictions for impeachment purposes.
Finally, Inman argues that because his testimony was “pitted against” two witnesses, rather than just one, the need for impeachment evidence was not great. See State v. Bettin, 295 N.W.2d 542, 546 (Minn. 1980) (stating “if the issue for the jury narrows to a choice between defendant’s credibility and that of one other person then a greater case can be made for admitting the impeachment evidence, because the need for the evidence is greater”). But Inman’s flat denial of any involvement with methamphetamine manufacturing placed his credibility squarely at issue; thus, this factor weighs heavily in favor of admitting his prior convictions for impeachment purposes.
We conclude from our application of the Jones factors that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of Inman’s prior convictions; the probative value of the convictions outweighed any prejudicial effect. Moreover, even if the district court’s decision were an abuse of discretion, it was harmless because the state’s evidence was independently strong. See State v. Darveaux, 318 N.W.2d 44, 48-49 (Minn. 1982) (holding that the erroneous admission of a prior conviction was harmless error because the state’s evidence was “independently strong”). Inman was arrested while standing next to a methamphetamine laboratory; his co-defendant testified that, at the time he and Inman were arrested, they were attempting to manufacture methamphetamine; and Deputy Schmidtke testified that Inman admitted his involvement.
 We are aware that in the other reported, but unpublished, decisions in which the defendant requested that the interrogation not be recorded and this court found no substantial violation of Scales, at least part of the interrogation was recorded. See Chang, 2001 WL 536975, at *2 (finding no substantial violation when the substance of the unrecorded statement was repeated during a recorded statement and the interviewing officer informed the defendant that his unrecorded statements could be used against him); State v. Lee, No. C0-98-1135, 1999 WL 227394, at *2 (Minn. App. Apr. 20, 1999) (holding that the defendant did not prove a substantial violation of Scales when the interviewing officer recorded the interrogation until the defendant “clearly stated on tape that he wished to ‘tell the truth’ and would do so only if [the interviewing officer] turned off the tape recorder”), review denied (Minn. June 29, 1999); State v. Kattaria, No. C6-97-2358, 1998 WL 481899, at *4 (Minn. App. Aug. 18, 1998) (finding no substantial violationwhen the “recorded portion of the interview establishes that appellant knew that he could refuse to answer police questions and that appellant asked that the recorder be turned off”), review denied (Minn. Oct. 20, 1998).
 Inman asserts that the record does not include the date of his felony conviction of escape from custody. But the record shows that Inman was convicted of the offense in May 1998.