may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Connecticut Valley Arms
Black Powder .58 Cal. Rifle, et al.,
Filed October 20, 1998
Affirmed; motion to strike granted
St. Louis County District Court
File No. C6-97-600345
Bradford Colbert, Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners, Kari Lillesand, Certified Student Attorney, 875 Summit Avenue, Room 371, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for appellant)
Alan L. Mitchell, St. Louis County Attorney, Malcolm B. Davy, Assistant County Attorney, 100 North 5th Avenue West, #501, Duluth, MN 55802-1298 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.
Following his conviction for making terroristic threats, violating an order for protection, and fifth-degree assault, appellant Steven Tveit was served with a summary forfeiture notice, indicating that St. Louis County intended to forfeit a number of weapons that were owned by Tveit and that had been introduced into evidence at his jury trial. Tveit thereafter brought this action seeking return of the weapons.
On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court determined that the weapons were forfeitable as "contraband" that had been used or possessed in furtherance of the crimes for which Tveit was convicted. Minn. Stat. § 609.5316, subd. 3. Tveit appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in liberally construing the forfeiture statute and that under a strict construction, he did not use the weapons in the commission of any offense. Tveit also argues that because there is not a sufficient nexus between his offenses and the weapons, the forfeiture violated the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment. We disagree and affirm.
Between August 1 and 15, 1995, Tveit threatened his wife on numerous occasions. According to his wife, Tveit held his hand like a gun to her head and mentioned the name of a local woman who recently had been shot and killed by her ex-husband, and told his wife, "[t]hat could be you." Tveit's wife also testified that Tveit referred to the local woman many times and said, "when women do these things, that's how they get themselves killed."
On September 18, 1995, Tveit telephoned his mother from his girlfriend's house and threatened to kill her. Tveit screamed into the phone: "If you think that was a threat in July, well I am going to * * * shoot you now." Soon after making that call, Tveit went to a bar and told a friend that "he should just shoot them all," specifically his mother, grandmother, and wife. Tveit's mother called the police and reported that Tveit was "going to shoot everybody that's interfering with his life," that Tveit was at his girlfriend's house about a mile away, and that Tveit had "a lot of guns."
During execution of a search warrant, the police seized the weapons that are the subject of this forfeiture proceeding. One of the weapons, a 30-inch blowgun and a baggie containing blow darts, was seized from Tveit's automobile. The remaining weapons were seized from the girlfriend's house.
These reports merely provide additional or cumulative evidence of Tveit's criminal activities after the weapons were seized, and are not relevant to our decision here. Because they were not part of the record upon which the trial court based its December 12, 1997, decision, these records are stricken from the county's appendix. See Midwest Family Mut. Ins. Co. v. AMCO Ins. Co., 422 N.W.2d 758, 760 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. June 29, 1988).
Tveit argues that the trial court erred in concluding that this 1988 amendment changed the law so that the forfeiture statute now must be liberally construed. He reasons that while the legislature may "claim" that the purpose of the forfeiture statute is remedial, the effect of that statute still is to punish.
Although this court may question the legislature's wisdom or correctness, statutes are presumed valid unless proven otherwise. See Johnson v. Multiple Misc. Items, 523 N.W.2d 238, 240 (Minn. App. 1994) ("If the legislature provides rules of construction with which to interpret a statute, this court should apply those rules."). Absent a persuasive constitutional challenge to this statute, we must follow the legislature's directives. Cf. State v. Watley, 541 N.W.2d 345, 347 (Minn. App. 1995) (under Minn. Stat. § 609.531, subd. 1a, stated purpose of forfeiture statute is "remedial" in nature; burden is thus on defendant to show that forfeiture is punitive for purposes of invoking double jeopardy clause), review denied (Minn. Feb. 27, 1996).
Tveit urges that the weapons are not forfeitable because he did not use, carry, or actively employ the weapons during the crimes. He reasons that because he did not have the weapons in his possession, or otherwise disclose or mention the weapons during the commission of his crimes, he did not use or possess the weapons.
However, Tveit's argument ignores the rest of the statutory language, which requires that a defendant use or possess the weapons "in furtherance of a crime." Thus, the inquiry must focus on the type of crime that was committed, and on the connection between the use or possession of the weapons and that crime. Particularly, the weapons must have played a significant part in committing the crime. Cf. Worthington Police Dep't v. 1988 Chevrolet Berreta, 516 N.W.2d 581, 584 (Minn. App. 1994) (construing Minn. Stat. § 609.5312, subd. 1, which provides for forfeiture of property "used to commit or facilitate" a crime).
In this case, Tveit was convicted of making terroristic threats. Terroristic threats consist of threatening, directly or indirectly, to commit a crime of violence with the purpose of terrorizing another. Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (1994); State v. Marchand, 410 N.W.2d 912, 915 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Oct. 21, 1987) (conviction for felony terroristic threats requires that defendant must have "threatened to commit a crime of violence").
As demonstrated by the evidence presented at trial, Tveit's possession, ownership, and ability to use these weapons played a significant part in his crimes. First, the weapons tended to establish Tveit's capability to commit crimes of violence. See State v. Murphy, 545 N.W.2d 909, 915 (Minn. 1996) (defendant's actions established capability to commit crimes of violence). Second, his intent to terrorize through the use of these weapons may be inferred from his conduct, which included threatening to "shoot" his mother and holding his hand like a gun to his wife's head while threatening her. His intent may also be inferred from the location and availability of the weapons, which were seized from his car and from his girlfriend's house.
Finally, a number of witnesses testified that they believed Tveit would carry out his threats and that they knew he possessed a number of weapons. For instance, when Tveit's mother contacted the police, she told them that Tveit was at his girlfriend's house and that he had guns. Thus, Tveit's victims were terrorized because they knew that he had the ability to harm them through his ownership, possession, and access to these weapons. Although a victim's reaction to a defendant's conduct is not an element of the crime of terroristic threats, that reaction "is circumstantial evidence relevant to the element of intent." Marchand, 410 N.W.2d at 915; see also Murphy, 545 N.W.2d at 913 ("record contains a comprehensive portrayal of Murphy's conduct and its effect upon his victims").
Given these undisputed facts, the trial court did not err in determining that the weapons were forfeitable. As required by the statute, Tveit "used or had [the weapons] in possession in furtherance of a crime." The victims' knowledge that Tveit possessed weapons was used in furtherance of the crimes. In other words, the use of the weapons played a significant part in committing the offense of making terroristic threats. Cf. Worthington Police, 516 N.W.2d at 584 (rejecting argument that vehicle not subject to forfeiture because its use not element of crime that was committed; because vehicle provided transportation to and from place of burglary, properly forfeitable because "used to commit or facilitate the crime").
Tveit essentially argues that the forfeiture effected here violated the excessive fines clause, which requires that the forfeited property played a "significant part" in committing an offense. Worthington Police Dep't, 516 N.W.2d at 583-84; see also Bennis v. Michigan, 116 S. Ct. 994, 1006-07 (1996) (Stevens, J., dissenting) (derivative contraband, which includes tools or instrumentalities that wrongdoer has used in commission of crime, must have necessary connection to offense or have been used to facilitate offense). Proper application of the forfeiture statute requires a significant part, or a connection or nexus, between the forfeitable property and the crime. Because we have concluded that such a connection or nexus existed in this case there has been no violation of the excessive fines clause.
We therefore affirm the trial court's summary forfeiture order and judgment. We further strike pages 62 through 69 of the county's appendix as not part of the record.
Affirmed; motion to strike granted.
*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art VI, § 10.