This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Alexander Mark Martinelli,
Nicollet County District Court
File No. 52CR0573
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Noah Cashman, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Michael K. Riley, Sr., Nicollet County Attorney, 326 South Minnesota Avenue, Box 360, St. Peter, MN 56082-0360 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, Minnesota Public Defender, Suzanne M. Senecal-Hill, Assistant Public Defender, Suite 425, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Minge, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of escape from custody under Minn. Stat. § 609.485 (2004), arguing that the statute violates his right to equal protection and that the district court erred by refusing to allow him to rely on a necessity defense at trial. We affirm.
In 1998, appellant Alexander Mark Martinelli was civilly
committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) at the state security
hospital in St. Peter as a sexually dangerous person (SDP). In March 2005, Martinelli escaped from the
state security hospital. He was
apprehended approximately 12 hours later in Omaha, Nebraska and was charged
with escape from custody in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.485, subd. 2(5)
(2004). Martinelli fought extradition
Martinelli moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of probable cause and asserted that the escape statute violated his right to equal protection. The court denied Martinelli’s motion to dismiss. The district court also denied Martinelli’s request to rely on a necessity defense at trial. Martinelli made an offer of proof on the necessity defense and submitted the case to the district court for trial under State v. Lothenbach, 296 N.W.2d 854 (Minn. 1980). The district court found Martinelli guilty of escape from custody and sentenced him to one year and a day. This appeal followed.
Martinelli asserts that Minn. Stat.
§ 609.485 (2004), violates equal-protection guarantees, because the statute allows
a committed person who has been found “not guilty by reason of mental illness
or mental deficiency” to avoid a felony charge of escape if such a person
voluntarily returns to the facility within 30 days after the escape, but the
statute contains no similar provision allowing a person committed as a SDP or
sexual psychopathic personality (SPP) to avoid a charge of escape.
The constitutionality of a statute
is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. State
v. Behl, 564 N.W.2d 560, 566 (
Because Martinelli did not voluntarily return to the treatment facility within 30 days after his escape or present any evidence that he intended to return within 30 days after his escape, we question his standing to challenge the statute. But because neither the parties nor the district court addressed standing, in the interest of justice, we will address the merits of Martinelli’s claim.
The equal-protection clauses of the
Martinelli argues that MID and SPP/SDP patients are similarly situated because: (1) they all suffer from a mental disorder; (2) they are committed to the same facilities and receive the same treatment; (3) they are all indefinitely committed; and (4) some provisions in the civil-commitment statute apply equally to MID and SPP/SDP patients. We disagree and conclude that MID and SPP/SDP patients are not similarly situated for purposes of different treatment after escape because (1) the commitment criteria for the relevant MID patients are not the same as the commitment criteria for SPP/SDP patients; (2) MID patients do not receive the same treatment as SPP/SDP patients; and (3) both the commitment statute, Minn. Stat. § 253B, and the escape statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.485, specifically provide for dissimilar treatment, evincing a legislative intent that the classes are not considered similarly situated for all purposes.
There is a mental-illness component
to commitment as an SPP/SDP. See Hince v. O’Keefe, 632 N.W.2d 577,
The treatment program for SPP/SDP
patients is not the same as for MID patients.
MSOP, the program to which Martinelli was committed, was established
specifically to “provide care and treatment in secure treatment facilities to
persons committed by the courts as [SPP] or [SDP], or persons admitted there
with the consent of the commissioner of human services.”
Minn. Stat. chapter 253B, does not prohibit or preclude
dissimilar treatment for MID and SPP/SDP patients when it is specifically provided
for in the statute. See
Because we conclude that persons committed as SPP/SDP and persons committed as MID are not similarly situated for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 609.485, Martinelli’s equal-protection argument fails, and we need not decide whether dissimilar treatment is justified. But even if we were to conclude that persons committed as SPP/SDP and persons committed as MID are similarly situated, we would find that the disparate treatment in Minn. Stat. § 609.485 is justified.
The parties dispute whether the rational-basis or
strict-scrutiny test applies to the dissimilar treatment in this case. A classification that does not involve
fundamental rights or target a suspect class is accorded a strong presumption
of validity and does not violate the Equal Protection Clause if there is a
rational relationship between the disparate treatment and some legitimate
governmental purpose. Heller v. Doe, 509
Persons committed as SPP/SDP have engaged in a course of harmful sexual conduct (SDP), have an inability or an utter lack of power to control sexual impulses (SPP), and as a result, pose a high risk of sexually reoffending. By contrast, the MID patients who are afforded the opportunity to avoid a criminal penalty for escape have been found not guilty of a criminal charge by reason of mental illness. We conclude that the government has a legitimate purpose in treating SPP/SDP patients who escape from a secure treatment facility differently than it treats MID patients who escape.
II. Necessity defense
Martinelli also argues that the
district court erred by denying his request to present a necessity defense to
the charge of escape from custody. “
A defendant has the burden of
establishing a prima facie showing of justification by necessity, provided he
is not required to disprove an element of the crime charged. State
v. Hage, 595 N.W.2d 200, 205 (
In this case, the district court concluded that none of the elements of the necessity defense was present. We agree. Despite Martinelli’s argument that he “had no alternative to escape in order to end the overwhelming conditions of his confinement, which amounted essentially to imprisonment under the guise of the receipt of treatment,” Martinelli has failed to demonstrate that his escape prevented a harm that would have significantly exceeded the harm resulting from his escape, that he exhausted all legal alternatives available to him to address his complaints, or that there was any emergency or imminent harm to him at the time of his escape. The district court did not err in determining that Martinelli failed to establish a prima facie case of necessity for his escape.
 Specifically, Minn. Stat. § 253B.185, subd. 1 (2004), provides that “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in this section,” the provisions pertaining to MIDs “apply with like force and effect” to SDPs and SPPs. And Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 17 (2004), provides that the characteristics defining MID also apply to persons committed as SPP or SDP.
The rational-basis standard under the equal
protection clause of the Minnesota Constitution is stricter than under the
Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. State
v. Russell, 477 N.W.2d 886, 889 (
The classification must also be “genuine or
relevant to the purpose of the law,” and the statute’s purpose must be “one
that the state can legitimately attempt to achieve.” State
v. Russell, 477 N.W.2d 886, 888 (