This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






State of Minnesota,





Stephanie Mildred Mjolsness,



Filed March 1, 2005

Reversed and remanded

Toussaint, Chief Judge


St. Louis County District Court

File No. K2-04-600248


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 445 Minnesota St., Suite 1800, St. Paul, MN  55101; and


Alan L. Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, James T. Nephew, Assistant County Attorney, 100 N. Fifth Ave. W., Suite 501, Duluth, MN  55802 (for appellant)


Mary M. McMahon, 2499 Rice Street, Suite 140, Roseville, MN  55113 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Willis, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge

            This appeal is from a stay of adjudication imposed following respondent Stephanie Mjolsness’s plea of guilty to gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular operation.  The state argues that there was no clear abuse of discretion in charging respondent for the offense.  We reverse and remand.


Respondent Stephanie Mjolsness was charged with two counts of gross-misdemeanor criminal vehicular operation and two counts of fourth-degree driving while impaired (DWI) for an incident that occurred on October 3, 2003.  The complaint alleged that Mjolsness, while under the influence of alcohol, drove over the victim as the victim and Mjolsness’s husband were entering the vehicle to leave the scene of an altercation they had with two other men.

Mjolsness agreed to plead guilty under a plea agreement providing that Mjolsness would plead guilty to one of the criminal-vehicular-operation counts and the other counts would be dismissed.  Mjolsness requested a stay of adjudication and despite the prosecutor stating strong opposition, the district court granted the request because there were “special circumstances.”

The supreme court has narrowed the trial court’s authority to stay adjudication, limiting it to cases in which the prosecutor’s clear abuse of discretion in exercising the charging function would result in an injustice.  State v. Foss, 556 N.W.2d 540, 541 (Minn. 1996).  The court has emphasized that the authority to order stays of adjudication should be used “sparingly.”  Id.

The district court did not articulate any “clear abuse of discretion” in the prosecutor’s charging the case as a gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular operation.  Instead, the court listed the consequences – loss of driver’s license, loss of job, diminished family income – for Mjolsness and her family if she were sentenced for the gross misdemeanor.  But these consequences have repeatedly been held insufficient to constitute “special circumstances” supporting a stay of adjudication.  See State v. Twiss, 570 N.W.2d 487, 487 (Minn. 1997) (holding that possibility of loss of employment due to gross misdemeanor conviction was not a “special circumstance” supporting stay of adjudication); see also State v. Colby, 657 N.W.2d 897, 899 (Minn. App. 2003) (holding that defendant’s desire to go to nursing school and her lack of prior record were not “special circumstances” justifying stay of adjudication). 

This court has affirmed a stay of adjudication in a case in which the victim, due to his relationship with the defendant, would have suffered consequences from the failure to stay adjudication.  State v. Lattimer, 624 N.W.2d 284, 290 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. May 15, 2001).  Although the victim here objected to charges being brought against respondent, the district court, in staying adjudication, relied solely on the consequences to respondent.  It is well established that these consequences do not constitute “special circumstances” supporting a stay of adjudication.

This court has held that a clear-abuse-of-discretion standard applies to appellate review of stays of adjudication.  State v. Angotti, 633 N.W.2d 554, 556 (Minn. App. 2001).  The state argues that State v. Colby, 657 N.W.2d 897 (Minn. App. 2003), which does not state a standard of review, implicitly applies a de novo standard.  But because the district court under either standard clearly exceeded its authority, as defined in Foss, we need not address the impact of Colby.

            Respondent’s arguments asserting that the lack of clarity in the law regarding stays of adjudication, including the standard of review, violates due process and notions of fundamental fairness are without merit.  We also conclude that respondent’s argument that the state’s right to appeal stays of adjudication, when criminal defendants cannot, violates due process and double jeopardy is unsupported under Minnesota law.

The stay of adjudication is reversed, and this matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

            Reversed and remanded.