This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).







Stephen Lari Schluter, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,



Filed August 31, 2004


Lansing, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. K2-00-2901



Kyle D. White, Suite 2314, 101 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Darrell C. Hill, Assistant County Attorney, Suite 315, 50 W. Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102-1657 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Harten, Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            On appeal from an order denying a postconviction petition, Stephen Schluter argues that his felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm conviction should be overturned because the amendment extending the prohibition against possessing firearms to those convicted of felony controlled-substance crimes violates Minn. Stat. § 645.21 (2002).  Because Schluter’s postconviction petition is procedurally barred, we affirm.


            In September 2000, police obtained consent to search Stephen Schluter’s home as part of an investigation into an attempted shooting of an occupied vehicle.  During the search, police found a rifle, a double-barreled shotgun, twelve-gauge shotgun ammunition, an empty Uzi assault-rifle box, an old-style flintlock rifle, and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol.  Because Schluter had a prior 1986 felony conviction for possession of LSD with intent to distribute, the state charged Schluter with possession of a firearm by an ineligible person in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713 (2000). 

In August 2001, Schluter was convicted of the charged offense and sentenced to a sixty-month prison term, with a stay of execution for fifteen years, and one year in the workhouse.  Schluter appealed his conviction, arguing, in part, that a 1987 statutory amendment that extends the prohibition against possessing firearms to individuals convicted of felony controlled-substance offenses committed before the effective date of the amendment violates the ex post facto clauses of the Minnesota or United States Constitutions.  This court affirmed Schluter’s conviction in State v. Schluter, 653 N.W.2d 787 (Minn. App. 2002), review denied (Minn. Feb. 18, 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 76 (2003).

In 2003 Schluter filed a petition for postconviction relief, arguing that his conviction is unlawful because the 1987 amendment violates Minn. Stat. § 645.21 (2002), which prohibits retroactive application of laws unless specifically authorized by the legislature.  The postconviction court denied Schluter’s petition, stating that his “petition for [p]ostconviction [r]elief is, for all practical purposes, a reiteration of his arguments [to the court of appeals] that his conviction in this case was the result of an ex post facto law.”  The court also concluded that the 1987 amendment does not violate section 645.21 because it “contemplated the proscription of future conduct, not punishment for past conduct.”  This appeal followed.


In postconviction proceedings, the petitioner bears the burden of proving, by a fair preponderance of the evidence, facts that warrant relief.  Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 3 (2002).  On appeal from a denial of postconviction relief, the reviewing court is limited to determining whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the findings of the postconviction court.  Scruggs v. State, 484 N.W.2d 21, 25 (Minn. 1992).  Absent an abuse of discretion, a postconviction decision will not be disturbed on appeal.  Id.  But whether a statute has been properly construed is a question of law subject to de novo review.  State v. Murphy, 545 N.W.2d 909, 914 (Minn. 1996). 

At the time that Schluter possessed the firearms, individuals in Minnesota who had been found guilty of a “crime of violence” were prohibited from possessing firearms for ten years after their civil rights had been restored.  Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2000).  The legislature amended the definition of the term “crime of violence” in 1987 to include felony controlled-substance offenses.  See 1987 Minn. Laws ch. 276, § 3 (amending Minn. Stat. § 624.712, subd. 5 (1986)).  The amendment applies to offenses committed on or after May 29, 1987.  Id., § 5. 

Schluter argues that the 1987 amendment violates Minn. Stat. § 645.21 (2002), which states that “[n]o law shall be construed to be retroactive unless clearly and manifestly so intended by the legislature.”  The postconviction court found that this argument is identical with the argument Schluter raised in his direct appeal.  Once a petitioner has directly appealed a conviction, “all matters raised” in that appeal “will not be considered upon a subsequent petition for postconviction relief.”  State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1976).  Although Schluter admits that he previously raised this exact issue in his direct appeal, he contends that the Knaffla rule does not apply because this court did not specifically address his argument under section 645.21. 

Fundamental to our analysis in Schluter’s direct appeal is the determination that the “offenses committed on or after” the statute’s effective date refers to the offense of possessing the firearm, not the predicate offense on which the illegal possession is based.  Schluter, 653 N.W.2d at 792 (“The illegal act was possessing the firearm in 2000, not the possession of LSD in 1986.”).  We concluded that statutes prohibiting felons from carrying weapons may constitutionally be applied to individuals who committed the felonies prior to the statutes’ effective dates.  Id.  Thus, in Schluter’s direct appeal this court inherently and necessarily decided that Schluter’s conviction for ineligible possession of a firearm does not violate the prohibition against retroactive application of laws found in section 645.21.  Because Schluter’s post-conviction petition raises an issue already considered and decided on direct appeal, his petition is procedurally barred and the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the petition.