This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Hamid Reza Vahabi,
Filed September 10, 1996
Dissenting, Harten, Judge
Dakota County District Court
File Nos. K193856, K393857
Hubert Humphrey, III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Albert I. Usumanu, Assistant Dakota County Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 West Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for appellant)
Jeffrey Sheridan, 2121 Upper 55th Street East, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55075 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The state appeals from stays of adjudication imposed over the prosecutor's objection. This court consolidated the appeals, then stayed them pending the supreme court's decision in State v. Krotzer. The supreme court has issued its opinion, State v. Krotzer, 548 N.W.2d 252 (Minn. 1996), and the stay of these appeals has been vacated. We affirm.
Respondents Fakhri and Hamid Vahabi were charged with various counts of wrongfully obtaining public assistance. Beginning in 1991, the Vahabis received public assistance from Dakota County, in the form of family general assistance benefits, food stamps, and rent subsidies. The state also alleged that the Vahabis misrepresented their income and assets to obtain these benefits. The state alleged that Hamid Vahabi was self-employed in a profitable business and had also worked for another company. The Vahabis also allegedly concealed their ownership of six vehicles and large amounts of cash. The complaints alleged that the Vahabis fraudulently obtained $21,453 in public assistance.
The trial court, over the prosecutor's objection, deferred sentencing on the Vahabis' guilty pleas on the understanding that if they made full restitution within a year, a petty misdemeanor conviction would be entered. The court cited its concern that if felony convictions were entered, deportation proceedings against the Vahabis would deprive the county of restitution. The state later appealed the petty misdemeanor sentences, and this court reversed. SeeState v. Vahabi, 529 N.W.2d 359 (Minn. App. 1995).
Following the reversal of the petty misdemeanor sentence, the trial court determined that it had authority to stay adjudication. The court placed the Vahabis on probation for zero to three years, and ordered them to pay $21,453 in restitution and a $100 fine. The court stayed adjudication in the interests of justice, due to the threat of deportation if the Vahabis acquired a criminal record, and the effect this could have on the county's ability to recover restitution. This appeal followed.
The supreme court has held that the trial courts have inherent judicial authority to stay adjudication of a criminal conviction. State v. Krotzer, 548 N.W.2d 252, 254-55 (Minn. 1996). The court reasoned:
Id. (footnote omitted).
- The district court's determination that Krotzer's situation warranted unusual judicial measures is well-supported by the special circumstances of Krotzer's case. It appears that the court strongly disagreed with the prosecutor's decision to file charges against Krotzer, and felt that justice would not be served by giving Krotzer a criminal record as a predatory sex offender. Although the court did not act pursuant to any express Minnesota rule or statute, its decision to stay adjudication of Krotzer's charge fell within the "inherent judicial power" we have repeatedly recognized, and was necessary to the furtherance of justice in Krotzer's case.
The state argues that "special circumstances" warranting "unusual judicial measures" are not presented in this case. In Krotzer, the supreme court did not attempt to define the "special circumstances" warranting a stay of adjudication. The court noted the presence of mitigating factors, prompting the trial court's opinion that the offense should not have been charged, and "that justice would not be served by giving Krotzer a criminal record as a predatory sex offender." Id. at 254.
The Vahabis' offense is not mitigated, as was the offense in Krotzer. They obtained public assistance in amounts apparently greater than the typical offense, and with more egregious misrepresentations. But the normal criminal sentence would also subject them to consequences much more serious than in Krotzer. They are subject to deportation for acquiring a criminal record, and their deportation would likely deprive the county of a reasonable chance to recover restitution. This presents "special circumstances" of a different kind, but well within the rationale of Krotzer. Thus, we conclude that it was within the trial court's inherent judicial power to stay adjudication in these cases.
HARTEN, Judge (dissenting).
Because I would reverse the district court's stay of adjudication of the individual charge brought against each appellant, I respectfully dissent.
The rationale for my position is set forth in my dissent in State v. Foss, ___N.W.2d___ (Minn. App. Aug. 27, 1996). Here, as in Foss, and as in the unpublished decision of this court in State v. Hauer, No. C5-96-249 (Minn. App. 1996), by relying on its inherent power to grant stays of adjudication that reach beyond statutory authority and ignore prosecutorial objection, the judiciary encroaches upon the powers of the executive.
Here, the district court stayed adjudication "in the interests of justice" following appellants' guilty pleas to the wrongful and felonious obtaining of $21,453 in public assistance funds. The district court expressed concern that if appellants' guilt were adjudicated, they could be deported and thereby the county would be denied restitution. Unlike in State v. Krotzer, 548 N.W.2d 252 (Minn. 1996) (involving mandatory imposition of future reporting requirements attendant to Krotzer's being adjudicated guilty of a criminal sex charge), here the consequence--possible deportation--is not an integral part of the conviction for the crime charged. Rather, deportation is a separate personal consequence that could affect appellants by operation of the federal immigration laws. Moreover, the instant case introduces another hazardous element beyond those in Krotzer, Foss, and Hauer, to-wit, the exercise of inherent judicial power to accommodate quick payment of restitution. Would the same accommodation be given an indigent person?
In my Foss dissent, among other things, I wrote:
- With no clear restrictions and a willing judiciary, inherent power stays of adjudication could become routinely administered, and, despite the prosecutor's objection, the executive function thereby routinely subjugated * * *.
Subsequently, dissenting in Hauer, I noted:
(Emphasis added.) Since Krotzer, as but one judge of this court, I have encountered three more cases involving inherent power stays of adjudication over the objection of the prosecution. I regret that my remarks about the practice becoming routine now appear to have been prescient. Krotzer is read to allow unrestrained exercise of inherent judicial power--a power traditionally immune from remedy by both the legislative and the executive branches of government. Or is it? Indeed, will the executive and legislative branches long remain paralyzed by this application of inherent judicial powers that enables the judiciary to decline its fundamental duty to adjudicate? This is a perilous business.
- [T]here is a probability that stays of adjudication upon common causes, once approved, will become routine, despite objection by the prosecution.
I urge that the supreme court revisit Krotzer in the context of the instant case.