This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Melissa Christine Hauer,
Filed September 3, 1996
Harten, Judge, Dissenting
McLeod County District Court
File No. K895126
Hubert H. Humphrey, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101 (for Appellant)
Michael Junge, McLeod County Attorney, Jody Winters, Assistant McLeod County Attorney, 830 E. Eleventh St., Suite 214, Glencoe, MN 55336 (for Appellant)
Wayne A. Jagow, Steefland & Groves, 260 Skyline Square, 12940 Harriet Ave. S., Burnsville, MN 55337 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Harten, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant State of Minnesota challenges the district court order staying respondent Melissa C. Hauer's adjudication for wrongfully obtaining public assistance under Minn. Stat. § 256.98, subd. 1. We affirm.
From May 1992 through July 1992, Hauer wrongfully received $282 in food stamp benefits and $515 in AFDC benefits by failing to report the income of her children's father. In May 1995, she was charged under Minn. Stat. § 256.98, subd. 1 (1994), with one count of theft by wrongfully obtaining public assistance. In September 1995, at the plea hearing, the district court refused to accept Hauer's guilty plea pending the completion of a presentence investigation.
The presentence investigation report indicated that Hauer had received counselling, resumed her studies, and was financing her education with government grants--grants that could be lost with a felony conviction. Hauer's attorney, therefore, asked for a stay of adjudication, arguing that a stay was necessary so Hauer could continue to receive public assistance, without which she would be unable to afford to continue her education. He noted, too, that she had already paid the amount she owed in restitution and that the investigator recommended that the district court stay the imposition of Hauer's sentence. Hauer's attorney explained that the investigator recommended a stay of imposition rather than a stay of adjudication only because she did not think sentencing statutes permitted the latter disposition.
The district court refused to accept Hauer's guilty plea and informed her she would be on probation for one year under certain conditions. The court stated:
D E C I S I O N
The state contends that the district court abused its discretion because (1) no statute specifically authorizes a stay of adjudication in the context of Hauer's offense and (2) such a disposition is inconsistent with Minnesota case law.
- I'm not sure whether or not a stay of adjudication over the objection of the State, which the State has strongly objected to in this case, can stand on appeal, but I think in light of the fact that the restitution has been completely paid at this time, the Court feels that this sentence is in the interest of justice and that is the reason I'm doing it.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has recently, however, rejected a similar argument in State v. Krotzer, 548 N.W.2d 252 (Minn. 1996). In Krotzer the district court refused to accept the defendant's guilty plea for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, ordered a presentence investigation, stayed adjudication of the charge, and placed him on probation for 60 months. Id. at 253. The supreme court explained that the district court's disposition did not violate separation of powers principles because "[t]he final disposition of a criminal case is ultimately a matter for the presiding judge." Id. at 254. It further stated:
Id. at 254-55 (footnote omitted). The court explained that specific sentencing provisions did not control because the district court never formally accepted the defendant's guilty plea. Id. at n.3. Further, "the action undertaken by the district court * * * was akin to the dismissal 'in furtherance of justice' permitted by Minn. Stat. §(1994)." Id. at 255.
- Although the [district] court did not act pursuant to any express Minnesota rule or statute, its decision to stay adjudication of [the defendant's] charge instead of accepting his guilty plea fell within the "inherent judicial power" we have repeatedly recognized, and was necessary to the furtherance of justice in [the defendant's] case.
Here, as in Krotzer, the district court reserved the formal adjudication of Hauer's guilty plea and stayed the adjudication of her charged offense in the interest of justice. Likewise, with an amount barely over felony level, full restitution having been made, and avoidance of a felony record arguably critical to Hauer's future, as in Krotzer, this case apparently furnishes "special circumstances" justifying a stay of adjudication. See id. at 254 ("special circumstances" warranting unusual judicial measures included court's strong disagreement with prosecutor's decision to file charges and its feeling that justice would not be served by giving defendant a criminal record as a predatory sex offender).
HARTEN, Judge (dissenting).
Because I would reverse the trial court's stay of adjudication of the charge against Hauer, 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, by granting a stay of adjudication without statutory authority and over the strong objection of the prosecutor, the judiciary encroaches upon the powers of the executive.
The court reads the majority opinion in State v. Krotzer, 548 N.W.2d 252 (Minn. 1996), to permit a stay of adjudication in the instant case. I disagree. Here, the district court was concerned about the inability of Hauer to continue to finance her schooling if she had a felony conviction. Unlike Krotzer, this inability is not an inexorable attendant consequence of such a conviction. Anyone convicted of a crime must deal with the personal effects of the conviction. In my view, it is not the business of the judiciary to use its inherent powers to enable a person convicted of crime to relieve personal consequences that commonly attend the conviction.
Relying on Krotzer, the court indicates that the handling here resembles a dismissal under Minn. Stat. § 631.21 (1994). Of course, a section 631.21 dismissal is not final; the prosecutor can file a new complaint. But when the court uses its inherent powers, the prosecutor can do nothing.
Finally, as noted in my Foss dissent, there 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 judicial exercise of inherent power in the context of this case.