This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







State of Minnesota,


Michael Joseph Seeber,


Filed February 22, 2005


Wright, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. T1-03-479911



Michael J. Seeber, 415 East Belmont Lane, Maplewood, MN  55117 (pro se appellant)


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


Manuel Cervantes, St. Paul City Attorney, Jessica S. McConaughey, Assistant City Attorney, 500 City Hall/Courthouse, 15 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN  55102 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Kalitowski, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




In this appeal from his conviction of driving after suspension, appellant challenges the underlying driver’s license suspension, arguing that (1) neither the Minnesota Department of Public Safety nor Ramsey County Child Support and Collections had authority to suspend his driver’s license for failure to pay child support while a civil contempt proceeding for failure to pay child support was pending in family court; and (2) the statute permitting suspension of a driver’s license for nonpayment of child support is unconstitutional.  Appellant also challenges his conviction, arguing that (1) a criminal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the offense because the statute prohibiting driving after suspension is civil rather than criminal in nature; (2) the district court failed to issue written findings in deciding appellant’s motions when it issued its rulings from the bench; (3) the district court abused its discretion in denying appellant’s motion to compel discovery; and (4) the district court erred in requiring appellant to appear personally to defend a misdemeanor violation.  We affirm.



On March 17, 2002, appellant Michael Seeber received notice from Ramsey County Child Support and Collections (RCCSC) that his driver’s license would be suspended for failure to pay child support unless he paid his arrears in full, set up a payment plan, or requested in writing a hearing within 30 days to contest the suspension.  Because Seeber failed to comply with any of the three options given, he received notice on July 22, 2002, from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (commissioner) that his driver’s license would be suspended on August 5, 2002.  And on August 5, the commissioner suspended Seeber’s driver’s license.  Meanwhile, in May 2002, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office initiated a civil contempt proceeding against Seeber for nonpayment of child support, which was resolved in March 2003.

In September 2003, Seeber was cited in St. Paul for driving with a suspended license.  A formal complaint subsequently was filed charging Seeber with one misdemeanor count of driving after suspension, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1 (2002).  Before the pretrial hearing, Seeber filed several motions challenging the district court’s jurisdiction and the constitutionality of Minn. Stat. §§ 171.186, 518.551, subd. 13 (2002), the provisions authorizing the suspension of Seeber’s driver’s license.  Seeber also filed a motion to compel discovery. 

The district court heard Seeber’s motions and denied them in a ruling from the bench.  Seeber subsequently waived his right to a jury trial and submitted the case to the district court on stipulated facts pursuant to State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980).  The district court found Seeber guilty of driving after suspension and ordered Seeber to pay a $100 fine.  This appeal followed.





            As an initial matter, Seeber challenges the propriety of the commissioner’s order suspending his driver’s license.  Seeber argues that (1) the commissioner lacked authority to suspend his driver’s license while a civil contempt proceeding was pending; and       (2) the statute authorizing suspension of a driver’s license for nonpayment of child support lacks a rational basis and is, therefore, unconstitutional. 

A challenge to an administrative order suspending a driver’s license pursued during an appeal from a later criminal conviction for driving after suspension constitutes an impermissible collateral attack on a judgment.  State v. Cook, 275 Minn. 571, 572, 148 N.W.2d 368, 369-70 (1967); see also State v. Hanson, 356 N.W.2d 689, 693 (Minn. 1984) (finding it improper for court in criminal proceeding to decide reinstatement of denial of driving privileges); State v. Hoese, 359 N.W.2d 334, 335 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that attack on validity of license revocation in aggravated DWI prosecution was improper).  In Cook, the appellant argued on appeal from his conviction of driving after suspension that the commissioner lacked authority to order a suspension exceeding one year.  275 Minn. at 571, 148 N.W.2d at 369.  The Minnesota Supreme Court held that appellant could not collaterally attack the order suspending his license as long as the order was jurisdictionally sound, and declined to construe the statutes appellant contested.  Id. at 572, 148 N.W.2d at 369-70.   

Here, on appeal from a criminal conviction of driving after suspension, Seeber challenges the validity of an administrative order suspending his driver’s license.  Like the appellant in Cook, Seeber contests the administrative agency’s statutory authority to suspend his license.  In addition, Seeber challenges the constitutionality of the statute authorizing license suspension for nonpayment of child support.  Because each of these challenges constitutes an impermissible collateral attack on the administrative order suspending his license, they are not properly before this court.[1]  Accordingly, we decline to address them. 


We next consider Seeber’s arguments challenging the driving after suspension conviction, which are properly before us.  Seeber first contests the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction over a driving after suspension prosecution.  Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, which we review de novo.  Johnson v. Murray, 648 N.W.2d 664, 670 (Minn. 2002).

A district court has original jurisdiction over all criminal offenses committed within its district.  Minn. Const. art. VI, § 3; Minn. Stat. § 484.01, subd. 1 (2002).  If a person is found to have committed an offense within Minnesota, the district court assumes jurisdiction, and the person may be charged and convicted under Minnesota law.  Minn. Stat. § 609.025 (2002).  Seeber was pulled over on Maryland Avenue in St. Paul, Ramsey County, and received a citation for driving with a suspended license, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1 (2002).  Because Seeber committed a criminal offense in Ramsey County, Ramsey County District Court properly exercised its jurisdiction over the subject matter. 

Seeber argues that Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1, the statute prohibiting driving after suspension, is civil-regulatory in nature and, therefore, deprives a criminal court of jurisdiction to enforce the statute.  Seeber’s argument is misplaced.  The law on which Seeber relies for this distinction between a civil-regulatory offense and a criminal-prohibitory offense pertains only to the state’s jurisdiction to enforce a criminal statute against a member of an American Indian tribe on reservation land.  See State v. Johnson, 598 N.W.2d 680, 681 (Minn. 1999) (addressing whether state had subject matter jurisdiction over traffic offenses committed by enrolled tribal members on reservation); State v. Stone, 572 N.W.2d 725, 727 (Minn. 1997) (same); State v. Zornes, 584 N.W.2d 7, 9 (Minn. App. 1998) (resolving issue of whether state had jurisdiction to enforce driving after cancellation prohibition against enrolled member of White Earth Band of Ojibwe parked on reservation land).  Because Seeber did not commit a traffic offense on reservation land, this legal distinction derived from Public Law 280, which grants the state broad criminal and limited civil jurisdiction over Indian country, does not apply here.  Indeed, the law is clear and unequivocal that Ramsey County district court may exercise jurisdiction over a traffic offense committed in Ramsey County on nonreservation land. 


Seeber also argues that, because the district court failed to make written findings stating its jurisdictional authority and denying his pretrial motions, he was denied due process of law.  As a general rule, due process requires a district court to make findings adequate to permit appellate review.  Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605, 610, 87 S. Ct. 1209, 1212 (1967); State v. Christie, 494 N.W.2d 492, 496 n.2 (Minn. App. 1993), aff’d, 506 N.W.2d 293 (Minn. 1993).  But the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure do not mandate a district court to issue memoranda or written findings establishing its jurisdiction or supporting an order denying a motion to dismiss, strike, or compel discovery.  There are circumstances in which a district court must make a written finding or ruling, but none of those circumstances is present here.  See, e.g.,Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 2 (mandating general written finding of guilt or innocence within seven days after bench trial’s completion); see also Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1(m) (2002) (requiring written findings of fact for disposition of juvenile); Minn. R. Juv. Delinq. P. 15.05, subd. 2 (elaborating on requirement of particularized findings for disposition). 

Although the district court did not make written findings, the transcript from the pretrial hearing makes evident that the district court specifically addressed the merits of each motion after giving Seeber the opportunity to present arguments affirmatively and in response to the state’s arguments.  The district court made oral findings at the hearing that articulated its reasons for denying each of Seeber’s motions and issued a written order that summarily denied Seeber’s motions.  These findings were more than adequate to permit appellate review.  Accordingly, Seeber’s due process rights were not violated by the absence of written findings or a memorandum of law.


Seeber next contends that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion to compel discovery to obtain several administrative agency files.  The district court has considerable discretion regarding discovery, and absent an abuse of that discretion, an appellate court will not reverse the district court’s decision regarding whether to compel discovery.  State v. Davis, 592 N.W.2d 457, 459 (Minn. 1999).

In a misdemeanor case, the disclosure of investigative reports ordinarily is the only form of discovery provided by the prosecuting authority.  Minn. R. Crim. P. 7.03.  The defendant may move the district court to compel additional discovery, but such discovery is rarely necessary.  Id., cmt.  When a party seeks discovery beyond police investigative reports, “the court will be guided by the extensive discovery provisions of [the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure].”  Id.  Under the general discovery rules, the district court may order the prosecutor to acquire relevant agency files on good cause shown; but the decision rests within the discretion of the district court.  See Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.01, subd. 2 (authorizing district court to require prosecutor “to assist the defendant in seeking access to specified matters relating to the case which are within the possession or control of an official or employee of any governmental agency, but which are not within the control of the prosecuting attorney”). 

Here, the district court denied Seeber’s motion to compel discovery because the documents Seeber requested were not in the prosecutor’s possession.  Because the prosecutor did not have access to Ramsey County Social Services’ files or to information maintained by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the district court declined to compel production.  This is not an abuse of discretion.  Seeber did not establish good cause to order the prosecutor to assist him in obtaining files from other government agencies related not to the instant prosecution but to the license suspension.  Seeber established neither the discovery’s relevance to the criminal proceeding nor how the discovery sought would lead to relevant evidence.  Moreover, the district court clearly explained to Seeber how he could acquire the administrative agency files.  Accordingly, Seeber’s challenge to his conviction on this ground fails.  


Seeber argues that the district court’s practice of compelling a personal appearance to defend a misdemeanor traffic offense violates his constitutional right to due process.  Because Seeber did not raise this issue before the district court, and we have no record on which to conduct appellate review of this issue, we decline to consider it here.  See Roby v. State, 547 N.W.2d 354, 357 (Minn. 1996) (noting that this court generally will not consider matters unless they are presented to the district court). 


[1] It appears that Seeber erroneously believed that he could contest his driver’s license suspension during the civil contempt proceeding in family court.  The driver’s license suspension process and the civil contempt action are separate and distinct enforcement procedures, both of which the county may use to collect past-due child support.  Compare Minn. Stat. § 518.617 (2002) (authorizing court to cite for contempt of court and sanction obligor who disobeys a child-support order), with Minn. Stat. ­§ 518.551, subd. 13(b) (2002) (authorizing child support enforcement authority to order commissioner to suspend obligor’s driver’s license if obligor is in significant arrears in child-support payments). 

The driver’s license suspension remedy is separate from and “in addition to any other enforcement remedy available to the [child support enforcement] authority,” including bringing a contempt action.  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 13(b).  The driver’s license suspension statutes authorize RCCSC to direct the commissioner to suspend an obligor’s driver’s license if the obligor is in significant arrears in child-support payments.  Id.  Before doing so, RCCSC must notify the obligor and allow the obligor to request a hearing.  Id., subd. 13(c) (2002).  But if RCCSC does not receive a hearing request within 30 days, RCCSC shall direct the commissioner to suspend the obligor’s driver’s license and the commissioner shall do so.  Id.; Minn. Stat. § 171.186, subd. 1 (2002). 

In contrast, in a civil contempt proceeding, the district court may order the obligor to pay his or her arrears, set up a payment plan, or perform community service; but the court has no authority to suspend or reinstate a driver’s license.  Minn. Stat. § 518.617. Thus, the civil contempt proceeding does not provide a means to contest the driver’s license suspension.