This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Filed January 9, 2007
Beltrami County District Court
File No. T1-05-2179
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Jeanine R. Brand, Assistant Bemidji City Attorney, City Hall, 317 Fourth Street N.W., Bemidji, MN 56601 (for respondent)
Adam Steele, P.O. Box 1535, Bemidji, MN 56619 (pro se appellant)
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding
Appellant Adam Steele challenges his conviction under a Bemidji city ordinance for unlawful storage of an appliance and household furnishings in his yard, asserting that the ordinance is unconstitutional because (1) it is a violation of the state’s police power; (2) it is vague; and (3) it is discriminatorily enforced.
Because we conclude that the ordinance does not offend principles of due process or equal protection, we affirm.
the constitutionality of an ordinance de novo, as a question of law. Thul v.
State, 657 N.W.2d 611, 616 (
1. Due Process
or ordinance that constitutes an unreasonable exercise of municipal police
powers violates the due process clause.
we will not deem an ordinance based solely on aesthetic considerations to have
a legitimate government purpose, but we will uphold an ordinance based in part
on aesthetic considerations in addition to other legitimate purposes. Naegele
Outdoor Adver., 281
Here, the ordinance at issue provides that
[i]t is unlawful to park or store any unlicensed, unregistered or inoperable motor vehicle, household furnishings or appliances, or parts or components thereof, on any property, public or private, unless housed within a lawfully erected building. Any violation of this Section is declared to be a nuisance upon seven days written notice to the owner of the property on which such item or items are situated as shown by the records in the office of the County Auditor or the Department of Public Safety[.]
criminal ordinance must define an offense with sufficient definiteness that an
ordinary person can understand what conduct is prohibited. Hyland,
431 N.W.2d at 871. If no First Amendment
issues are involved, we examine the ordinance in light of appellant’s own
behavior, not a hypothetical situation.
Although appellant argues that the adjectives “inoperable,” “unregistered,” and “unlicensed” could be applied to the nominal phrase “household furnishings or appliances,” as well as the phrase “motor vehicle,” this is a strained interpretation of the ordinance. Appellant has the burden of persuading the court that a person of ordinary intelligence would be unable to discern what conduct is forbidden; his approach requires a tortuous reading of a fairly straightforward ordinance. A person of ordinary intelligence making a practical reading of the ordinance would be put on notice that junked automobiles, appliances, and household furnishings cannot be left in the yard. The district court did not err by concluding that this ordinance is not vague.
3. Discriminatory Enforcement
enforcement of a statute or ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment.
[a] defendant bears the heavy burden of establishing at least prima facie, (1) that, while others similarly situated have not generally been proceeded against because of conduct of the type forming the basis of the charge against him, he has been singled out for prosecution, and (2) that the government’s discriminatory selection of him for prosecution has been invidious or in bad faith, i.e., based upon such impermissible considerations as race, religion, or the desire to prevent his exercise of a constitutional right.
State v. Russell,
343 N.W.2d 36, 37 (
Although appellant provided the district court with pictures of other homes in Bemidji that appeared to be in violation of the ordinance, the record is silent as to whether the other homeowners were charged. Further, appellant fails to allege any impermissible government purpose for singling him out for discriminatory prosecution. Because appellant bore the burden of establishing at least a prima facie case and failed to do so, the district court did not err by concluding that appellant had not been subject to discriminatory enforcement.
We therefore affirm appellant’s conviction.
 The state has raised a challenge to
the district court’s grant of a stay of adjudication, in lieu of sentencing
appellant. A stay of adjudication is
deemed to be a pretrial order. State v. Lee, 706 N.W.2d 491, 494 (