This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Matthew Jon Wien, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,



Filed February 14, 2006


Kalitowski, Judge


Wilkin County District Court

File No. K7-02-20


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lydia Villalva Lijó, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Kimberly Parker, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and


Timothy E.J. Fox, Wilkin County Attorney, City Hall, P.O. Box 214, Breckenridge, MN 56520 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Matthew Jon Wien appeals from an order denying his postconviction petition, challenging his conviction and sentence for conspiracy to commit first-degree controlled substance crime.  He argues that (1) his guilty plea was not voluntary; and (2) the fine imposed on him violated the Excessive Fines Clauses of the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.  We affirm.



            “The decisions of a postconviction court will not be disturbed unless the court abused its discretion.”  Dukes v. State, 621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (Minn. 2001).  This court reviews “a postconviction court’s findings to determine whether there is sufficient evidentiary support in the record” and will not reverse a district court’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous.  Id.  Additionally, conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.  Butala v. State, 664 N.W.2d 333, 338 (Minn. 2003).



            Appellant argues that the postconviction court abused its discretion by refusing to allow appellant to withdraw his guilty plea.  Appellant contends that because the state induced his plea by promising not to seek an upward departure under the career offender statute when appellant did not qualify as a career offender, his plea was not voluntary.  We disagree.

            “Criminal defendants do not have an absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea, but may withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing upon a timely motion and proof to the satisfaction of the court that withdrawal of the plea is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.”  Alanis v. State, 583 N.W.2d 573, 577 (Minn. 1998) (quotations omitted); see also Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1.  A manifest injustice occurs if a guilty plea is not accurate, voluntary, and intelligent.  Alanis, 583 N.W.2d at 577.  “The accuracy requirement protects the defendant from pleading guilty to a more serious offense than he or she could be properly convicted of at trial.”  Id.  The voluntariness requirement ensures that the defendant does not plead guilty in response to improper pressures or inducements, and the intelligent requirement ensures “that the defendant understands the charges, his or her rights under the law, and the consequences of pleading guilty.”  Id.

            Minnesota courts generally honor a defendant’s request to withdraw a guilty plea when the defendant “is able to establish prima facie that he was induced to enter the plea by a genuine misapprehension of his legal position and his constitutional rights.”  State v. Adkison, 279 Minn. 1, 2-3, 155 N.W.2d 394, 395 (1967).  But when the record does not indicate that the defendant pleaded guilty because of the state’s promises, the defendant does not establish a prima facie case.  See id. at 3, 5, 155 N.W.2d at 395-96.

            Here, the postconviction court determined that appellant “failed to satisfy his burden of proof that his plea was not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily given.”  See Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 3 (2000) (stating that in a postconviction proceeding, the petitioner has the burden of establishing alleged facts by a fair preponderance of the evidence); State v. Christopherson, 644 N.W.2d 507, 510 (Minn. App. 2002) (stating that the burden is on the defendant to demonstrate that refusal to allow withdrawal results in a manifest injustice), review denied (Minn. July 16, 2002).  In reaching this conclusion, the court found that the career offender status portion of the plea agreement was merely “ancillary to the primary purpose of the plea agreement,” which was to give appellant a 13-month downward departure.  Based on the record, we conclude that this finding was not clearly erroneous.

            First, although appellant’s trial attorney briefly discussed the career offender statute with appellant, neither the prosecutor nor appellant’s trial attorney told appellant that he would qualify as a career offender.  Second, appellant’s trial attorney testified that he never independently determined whether appellant qualified as a career offender because he did not find it “terribly relevant” to the plea agreement.  Instead, the attorney encouraged appellant to accept the plea agreement because he did not “see a defense” and a 13-month downward departure was significant.  As a result, the attorney spent little time discussing the career offender statute with appellant.  Third, although appellant testified at the postconviction hearing that his only reason for pleading guilty was to prevent the court from sentencing him as a career offender, the record indicates that appellant’s reasons for accepting the plea agreement changed each time he appeared in court.

            Because it was not clearly erroneous for the postconviction court to find that the career offender provision of the plea agreement was ancillary to its primary purpose of obtaining a 13-month downward departure, we conclude that the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that appellant’s plea was “knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily given.”



            Whether an imposed fine violates the Excessive Fines Clauses is a legal question that this court reviews de novo.  State v. Rewitzer, 617 N.W.2d 407, 412 (Minn. 2000).

            Here, appellant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree controlled substance crime in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 152.021, subds. 2a, 3, 152.096, subd. 1 (2000).  Thus, the district court could have sentenced appellant to imprisonment for up to 30 years, imposed a fine of up to $1,000,000, or both.  Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 3.  Instead, the district court imposed a 140-month sentence with a $15,000 fine.  Appellant argues that the $15,000 fine is unreasonable and violates the Excessive Fines Clauses of the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.  We disagree.

            The United States and Minnesota Constitutions both prohibit the imposition of excessive fines.  U.S. Const. amend. VIII; Minn. Const. art. I, § 5.  But Minnesota courts recognize that “large discretion is necessarily vested in the legislature to impose penalties sufficient to prevent the commission of an offense, and it would have to be an extreme case to warrant the courts in holding that the constitutional limit has been transcended.”  Rewitzer, 617 N.W.2d at 412 (quotation omitted).  To prevail on a claim that a fine is so excessive that it violates constitutional standards, it must be “grossly disproportional to the gravity of the offense.”  Id. at 413.  When determining proportionality, the court must consider

(1) the gravity of the offense and the harshness of the penalty, (2) comparison of the contested fine with fines imposed for the commission of other crimes in the same jurisdiction, and (3) comparison of the contested fine with fines imposed for commission of the same crime in other jurisdictions.


Id.  “No one factor is dispositive.”  State v. Kujak, 639 N.W.2d 878, 883 (Minn. App. 2002), review denied (Minn. Mar. 25, 2002).

            1.         Gravity of Offense

            When determining whether a fine is excessive under the Excessive Fines Clauses, we first evaluate the gravity of the offense and the harshness of the penalty.  Rewitzer, 617 N.W.2d at 414.  Appellant argues that the fine is excessive because “[t]he illegal activity was . . . limited in scope, duration and impact.”  But appellant pleaded guilty to a felony controlled substance offense.  And the Minnesota legislature has determined that controlled substance crimes are grave offenses because of their social and economic impact.  See Kujak, 639 N.W.2d at 884.  Additionally, appellant has a significant criminal history, including two prior controlled substance offenses.  These factors suggest that appellant’s sentence was proportionate to the gravity of his offense.

            Appellant next argues that the fine is excessive because appellant is indigent.  But “[i]n Minnesota, . . . sentencing judges need not specifically find that a defendant has the ability to pay a fine before imposing the fine as part of a sentence.”  Kujak, 639 N.W.2d at 885.  Furthermore, although a sentencing court may reduce the amount of a defendant’s fine if the defendant is indigent, the court is not required to do so.  See Minn. Stat. § 609.101, subd. 5(b) (2000) (stating that the court may reduce the amount of the minimum fine if the convicted person is an indigent).  Here, the district court set appellant’s fine at 5% of the mandatory minimum fine authorized by statute.  See Minn. Stat. §§ 152.021, subd. 3(a), 609.101, subd. 3(a).  We conclude that the severity of the penalty is not unduly harsh compared to the gravity of the offense.

            2.         Comparison to Other Minnesota Crimes

            Next, we compare appellant’s fines with the fines that courts may impose for the commission of other crimes in MinnesotaRewitzer, 617 N.W.2d at 414.  Minnesota courts have made this comparison by comparing the imposed fine with the possible fines for other crimes at the same offense level.  See, e.g., id.; Kujak, 639 N.W.2d at 884-85.  But as this court stated in Kujak, “statistics alone do not control our decision . . . and without a factual context for them, they are unpersuasive.”  Kujak, 639 N.W.2d at 884 n.1.

            The 2000 Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines classify first-degree controlled substance crimes as a level-eight offense.[1]  Minn. Sent. Guidelines V.  Most of the other offenses at this level carry statutorily prescribed maximum fines of $30,000 to $50,000.  See, e.g., Minn. Stat. §§ 609.20 ($30,000 for first-degree manslaughter), 609.221, subd. 1 ($30,000 for first-degree assault), 609.2325, subd. 3(a)(1) ($30,000 for criminal abuse of vulnerable adult (death)), 609.25, subd. 2(2) ($50,000 for kidnapping with great bodily harm), 609.2664 ($30,000 for first-degree manslaughter of unborn child), 609.267 ($30,000 for first-degree assault of an unborn child), 609.268, subd. 1 ($30,000 for death of unborn child in commission of crime), 609.322, subd. 1 ($40,000 for solicitation, inducement, or promotion of prostitution), 609.342, subd. 2(a) ($40,000 for first-degree criminal sexual conduct), 609.498, subd. 1b(b) ($30,000 for aggravated first-degree tampering with witness) (2000).  Moreover, importing controlled substances across state borders, another crime classified as a level-eight offense in 2000, carries a maximum fine of $1,250,000.  Minn. Stat. § 152.0261, subd. 3 (2000).  Because appellant’s fine of $15,000 is less than the fines authorized for other similarly ranked offenses, we conclude that appellant’s fine is not grossly disproportionate to other Minnesota offenses.

            3.         Comparison to Other Jurisdictions

            Finally, we compare appellant’s fines with the fines imposed for the commission of the same crime in other jurisdictions.  Rewitzer, 617 N.W.2d at 415.  We conclude that the fine imposed here is within the range for a similar federal offense.  In addition, a survey of other state law indicates that appellant’s fine is not grossly disproportionate to other states’ penalties.  Thus, we conclude that under the facts of this case, the district court did not impose an unconstitutionally excessive fine.


[1]  The 2000 Sentencing Guidelines apply because appellant committed his offense from July through November of 2001.