This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Ikechi Kallys Albert,
Filed June 7, 2005
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 04026849
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Jay M. Heffern, Minneapolis City Attorney, Timothy Richards, Assistant City Attorney, 333 South Seventh Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Ikechi Kallys Albert,
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from a conviction and sentence for failure to stop at a stoplight, Ikechi Albert raises three grounds for reversal: discriminatory enforcement of traffic laws, rejection of his midtrial request for a continuance to obtain counsel, and the imposition of a $300 fine. Because the fine was not excessive, the denial of the continuance was within the court’s discretion, and Albert failed timely to raise or prove discriminatory enforcement, we affirm.
F A C T S
Police officers stopped Ikechi
Albert and cited him for failure to provide proof of insurance and failure to stop
at a stoplight. The police officers, who
were driving east on
Albert pleaded not guilty, acted pro se before trial, and indicated that he was representing himself at trial. Consistent with that representation, he cross-examined the two police officers called by the state. After the state rested, he requested an opportunity to obtain an attorney. The district court declined to grant a continuance for the purpose of obtaining counsel. Albert testified on his own behalf, stating that both he and the car behind him turned left before the light changed.
The district court dismissed the failure-to-provide-proof-of-insurance charge and found Albert guilty of failing to stop for a red light. The district court sentenced Albert to a fine of $300, and Albert appeals both his conviction and sentence.
D E C I S I O N
Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the intentional,
discriminatory enforcement of municipal ordinances. State v. Vadnais, 295
issue of discriminatory enforcement “does not go to the guilt or innocence of
the particular defendant,” and thus the procedure for presenting a discriminatory-enforcement
claim requires the defendant to raise the issue in pretrial proceedings. City of
waived his defense of discriminatory enforcement because he did not raise the
issue before trial. Albert first
asserted his discriminatory-enforcement claim when he testified on his own
behalf, after the state had completed its case in chief. Neither the court nor the state had notice
that Albert intended to raise a defense of discriminatory enforcement, and the
district court had no opportunity to conduct a pretrial hearing to determine
whether the issue had merit.
if the issue had been properly raised, Albert failed to meet the Russell requirements that he demonstrate
he was singled out from other similarly situated individuals and that the
prosecution was in bad faith based on an impermissible classification. The evidence provides at least two reasons
that the police officers followed and stopped Albert instead of the first
car. As the second car to run the red
light, his conduct was more egregious than the first offender’s conduct. And he, unlike the other car, turned onto the
street in front of the police officers, which made it easier for them to stop
him because they were traveling the same direction on the same street. Albert also failed to prove that the stop was
racially motivated. The record lacks
evidence that the officers observed the other driver’s race. Although Albert, who is black and originally
Because the officers were traveling in one vehicle and could not follow both cars, because the record provides two logical, nondiscriminatory reasons for stopping Albert’s car, and because the record provides no evidence that the officers had knowledge of the other driver’s race, we affirm the district court’s determination that Albert failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his arrest was the product of discriminatory enforcement of traffic laws.
his first appearance on the traffic citation, Albert indicated that he intended
to represent himself, and he appeared pro se for trial. The district court has discretion in deciding
whether to grant a continuance, and we will not reverse the district court’s
ruling unless it was an abuse of discretion.
State v. Rainer, 411 N.W.2d 490, 495 (
When the trial began, the district court judge carefully explained the trial procedures and gave Albert an opportunity to ask any questions. Albert told the judge that he understood the court process and that he had previously represented himself in a trial on a traffic violation. Albert vigorously cross-examined both of the state’s witnesses. He only requested a continuance to obtain an attorney after the state rested its case, explaining that he “just forgot” to ask earlier.
The record demonstrates that Albert had a full
opportunity to secure an attorney before trial or to request a continuance before
the trial began. Instead he requested
the continuance after the state had completed its case in chief. By this time, jeopardy had attached.
to stop for a stoplight is a petty misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of
$300. Minn. Stat. § 169.89, subds.
1, 2 (2002). Albert contends that this
fine is excessive and, therefore, unconstitutional. The constitutionality of a statute is a legal
question, which we review de novo. State
v. Rewitzer, 617 N.W.2d
407, 412 (
An examination of these three factors demonstrates that the fine is not unconstitutionally excessive. First, a $300 penalty is not unduly harsh in light of society’s interest in deterring dangerous driving conduct to protect the safety of motorists and pedestrians.
Second, other driving
offenses classified as petty misdemeanors have the same penalty range as
failure to stop at a stoplight. The next
level of offense, a misdemeanor, is punishable by a fine of no more than $1,000,
imprisonment for up to ninety days, or both.
finally, the fine is not disproportionate to the penalties imposed in other
states. Other states impose maximum
penalties for petty misdemeanors that include comparable fines and, in some
states, the possibility of imprisonment.
See, e.g., State v. Basabe, 97 P.3d 418, 420 n.2 (Haw.
App. 2004) (recognizing that petty misdemeanor in Hawaii is subject to maximum
fine of $1,000 and imprisonment of no more than thirty days); State v.
Martini, 860 A.2d 689, 692 (R.I. 2004) (defining petty misdemeanor as
criminal offense punishable by imprisonment of up to six months, fine of up to
$500, or both). Although Albert received
the maximum fine for a petty misdemeanor in
fine is not disproportionate to the gravity of the offense, it is not
disproportionate to the penalty for similar offenses in