This opinion will be unpublished and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
State of Minnesota,
John William Parker,
Cass County District Court
File No. K0-02-1337
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Tibor M. Gallo, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Earl E. Maus, Cass County Attorney, Courthouse,
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ann McCaughan,
Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
challenges his conviction for issuing worthless checks on the grounds that (1) because
he is an enrolled member of the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians and the
checks were written on an Indian reservation, the district court lacks
jurisdiction; and (2) because the checks were written for gambling, they are
unenforceable pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 541.21 (2002). We conclude that because the worthless check
charge is criminal, the checks were written on the Leech Lake Reservation, and federal
law grants the state of
The district court
convicted appellant John Parker under Minn. Stat. § 609.535, subds. 2(a)(1) and
3 (2002), a statute prohibiting the issuance of worthless checks. The charges proceeded in the district court
pursuant to Lothenbach procedures,
whereby appellant pleaded not guilty, waived his right to a jury trial, and the
district court considered the charges based on stipulated facts.
Appellant is an enrolled member of the White Earth Band and resides on the White Earth reservation. During February 2002, appellant wrote four worthless checks to “Casino Cash.” While this entity has its principal business address in Mahnomen, within the White Earth reservation, appellant tendered the checks to “Casino Cash” locations at Palace Casino and Northern Lights Casino on the Leech Lake Reservation. The amount of the checks, including return check fees assessed by appellant’s bank, totals $692.26. The record does not disclose how appellant spent the money he received from “Casino Cash.”
The first issue is
whether the district court had jurisdiction to hear and decide the charges
against appellant. Appellant claims
tribal sovereignty precludes jurisdiction.
Issues of jurisdiction are reviewed de novo. State
v. R.M.H., 617 N.W.2d 55, 58 (
expressly consent to state criminal jurisdiction when it passed Public Law
280. Pub. L. No. 83-280, § 2, 67 Stat. 588,
588-89 (1953) (codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. § 1162(a) (2000)) (“P.L. 280”). Under P.L. 280, the state has broad criminal
jurisdiction over offenses committed by or against Native Americans within
In close cases,
the court may look at state public policy factors to determine whether the
statute prohibits conduct, and may be considered criminal. State
v. Robinson, 572 N.W.2d 720, 723 (
failure to provide motor vehicle insurance, driving with expired registration,
and driving without a seat belt are regulatory offenses and the state has no
jurisdiction under P.L. 280 to prosecute a tribal member for such violations occurring
on their reservations. Stone, 572 N.W.2d at 727, 731. In each instance, the court reasoned that
these violations constituted exceptions to the generally-permitted conduct of
operating a motor vehicle, and fell into the civil regulatory category.
check statute at issue in this case is part of the criminal code.
second issue is whether the district court erred in determining that
appellant’s worthless check debt does not qualify for the gambling debt
exception under Minn. Stat. § 541.21. Appellant
claims that Minn. Stat. § 541.21 renders his worthless check debt
unenforceable. This is a question of
statutory interpretation, which the court reviews de novo. State
v. Murphy, 545 N.W.2d 909, 914 (
The statute provides:
Every note, bill, bond, mortgage or other security or conveyance in which the whole or any part of the consideration shall be for any money or goods won by gambling or playing at cards, dice, or any other game whatever . . . shall be void and of no effect as between the parties to the same. . . . The provisions of this section shall not apply to: . . . (3) gaming activities conducted pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq. . . . .
defendant in Stevens presented checks
totaling $465 to a local bar in exchange for pull tabs.
While appellant did make a motion to dismiss the debt as unenforceable under section 541.21, appellant’s counsel essentially stipulated that he had no factual basis to make such a motion. Therefore, unlike the defendant in Stevens who presented evidence that the funds were used for gambling, the appellant presented no such evidence in this case.
Appellant urges this court to assume that because he cashed the checks at “Casino Cash” locations in casinos, he used the money for gambling. However, the record indicates that “Casino Cash” is a privately-owned entity, not affiliated with any casino. Therefore, “Casino Cash” may cash a personal check for any individual, not just gambling patrons. Furthermore, appellant received cash, which could be used for any purpose. If appellant received gambling vouchers or tokens instead of cash, appellant’s assumption would be more reasonable. However, given the nearly empty record, the district court correctly concluded that section 541.21 did not apply.
 In addition, Minn. Stat. § 541.21 contains an exception for gambling debts incurred at establishments which operate pursuant to an approved state-tribal gaming compact. Under this exception, gambling debts incurred at casinos are enforceable. However, because we hold that section 541.21 does not apply in this case, we need not address the application of such exception here.