This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Nathan Daniel Scherr,
Filed February 3, 2004
Clay County District Court
File No. TX-03-1754
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Lisa N. Borgen, Clay County Attorney, Pamela Harris, Assistant Clay County Attorney, 807 N. 11th Street, P.O. Box 280, Moorhead, MN 56561-0280 (for respondent)
Chad R. McCabe, Vinje Law Firm, 523 North Fourth Street, Bismarck, ND 58501 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.*
Appellant Nathan Daniel Scherr challenges his misdemeanor conviction for driving after suspension of his driving privileges under Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1 (2002). He argues that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to instruct the jury that (1) the statutory presumption of notice upon mailing is rebuttable, and (2) good faith is an affirmative defense to the charge.
Because the statute under which appellant was charged is a strict liability statute, the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing appellant’s requested instructions. We therefore affirm the conviction.
The district court’s refusal to give a requested instruction is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. State v. Kuhnau, 622 N.W.2d 552, 555 (Minn. 2001). The focus of the reviewing court’s analysis is whether the district court’s refusal to give a requested instruction resulted in error. Id.
Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1(2) (2002) makes driving after the suspension of one’s privileges a misdemeanor if the driver has been “given notice of or reasonably should know of the suspension.” The statute further provides that “[n]otice of . . . suspension . . . is sufficient if personally served, or if mailed by first class mail to the person’s last known address or to the address listed on the person’s driver’s license.” Id., subd. 7(a).
Minnesota courts have consistently held that “[d]ue process requires only that the method of notice of suspension be reasonably calculated to reach the intended party. Mail is an efficient and effective means of communication. . . . Actual receipt of the notice is not required to meet the due process requirement.” State v. Green, 351 N.W.2d 42, 43-44 (Minn. App. 1984) (citations omitted); see also In re License of W. Side Pawn, 587 N.W.2d 521, 522 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. Mar. 30, 1999); State v. Coady, 412 N.W.2d 39, 41 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Nov. 6, 1987).
We find it significant that this statute was amended in 1984 to explicitly make it a strict liability statute by deleting references to a “willful” violation of the law. See Coady, 412 N.W.2d at 41 (citing 1984 Minn. Laws ch. 622, § 17). The use of the term “willful” creates a requirement that an act be voluntary, knowing, or intentional. Green, 351 N.W.2d at 44. Strict liability criminal statutes are not favored, but may be created by drafting laws without a requirement of scienter. See State v. Loge, 608 N.W.2d 152, 157 (Minn. 2000). Many traffic laws are drafted as strict liability violations, thus avoiding “a substantial, if not insurmountable, difficulty of proof [of knowledge].” Id.
Here, the state produced evidence that a copy of the notice of suspension was mailed by certified mail to appellant at his correct address. The district court properly interpreted Minn. Stat. § 171.24 to only require proof of notice by mail. The court thus did not err by refusing to give appellant’s requested instruction.
Appellant would also have us find a good-faith affirmative defense that he acted innocently or mistakenly because he was unaware that his driving privileges had been suspended. Generally, ignorance of the law is not a defense, particularly where a defendant has made no effort to learn of a criminal statute. State v. King, 257 N.W.2d 693, 697-98 (Minn. 1977); State v. Grillo, 661 N.W.2d 641, 645 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Aug. 5, 2003). Good faith as a defense has a limited application, available when the legislature has made it clear that criminal liability will not be imposed for “conduct unaccompanied by fault.” State v. Neisen, 415 N.W.2d 326, 329 (Minn. 1987) (concluding that legislature, by including reference to specific means of identification, intended to include good-faith defense to crime of selling alcohol to minor, where party charged sought to establish purchaser’s age, but was misled by falsified identification).
Here, the legislature manifested an intent to remove any scienter requirement from the statute, by deleting the “willful” requirement. The district court did not err or abuse its discretion by refusing to give appellant’s requested instruction, which would have allowed the jury to conclude that appellant was entitled to rely on an affirmative defense of innocent or mistaken conduct.
The conviction is affirmed.