This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. §480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In the Matter of the Welfare of:

O.Y., Child.

Filed December 15, 1998


Anderson, Judge

Ramsey County District Court

File No. J997553539

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Eric Hawkins, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102-1657 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.



Appellant O.Y., a juvenile, challenges an order certifying him for trial as an adult. Because the record supports the district court's finding that appellant was 16 at the time of the crimes, which supports a presumption of certification, we affirm the certification order.


Appellant challenges the district court's findings arguing that they are inconsistent and do not support a presumption of certification. The district court found appellant's date of birth to be November 21, 1982. The crimes involved occurred on November 26, 1997, and December 14, 1997. Based on a November 21, 1982 birthday, appellant would have been 15 when the crimes were committed. The record, however, contains evidence that appellant was 16 years of age during the relevant period of time. Appellant argues, based on the court's date of birth finding, application of the presumption of certification was error requiring remand.


We apply an abuse of discretion standard to review juvenile certification orders. In re the Welfare of S.W.N., 541 N.W.2d 14, 16 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Feb. 9, 1996). A clearly erroneous finding is harmless if the district court's conclusion of law can be supported in spite of the erroneous finding. Benson v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 561 N.W.2d 530, 539-40 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. June 11, 1997).

Certification is presumed if "the child was 16 or 17 at the time of the offense" and the offense would result in a presumptive sentence under the guidelines. Minn. Stat. § 260.125, subd. 2a(1) (1996). If the presumption applies:

[T]he burden is on the child to rebut this presumption by demonstrating by clear and convincing evidence that retaining the proceeding in the juvenile court serves public safety. If the court finds that the child has not rebutted the presumption by clear and convincing evidence, the court shall certify the proceeding.

Id., subd. 2a(2). Appellant argues that the district court's application of this presumption was error in light of its date of birth finding.

Clearly erroneous means "`manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence or not reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole.'" Novack v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 525 N.W.2d 592, 597 (Minn. App. 1995) (quoting Northern States Power Co. v. Lyon Food Prod., Inc., 304 Minn. 196, 201, 229 N.W.2d 521, 524 (1975)). The district court's finding that appellant's date of birth is November 21, 1982, is clearly erroneous and without any support in the record.

Nevertheless, the presumption of certification depends on the juvenile being 16 at the time of the crimes, not on a finding as to any particular date of birth, and the district court's finding that appellant was 16 at the time the crimes were committed is amply supported by substantial evidence in the record. In his statement to police given on December 30, 1997, appellant stated his date of birth as April 7, 1981, and his age as 16. Appellant's father testified at the time of the certification hearing that appellant was 16-1/2, almost 17. All of appellant's school records list his date of birth as April 7, 1981. Appellant's identification card lists his date of birth as April 7, 1981. Appellant's counsel admitted at the time of the certification hearing that appellant was almost 17. Viewing the record as a whole, the district court's finding that appellant was 16 at the time of the crimes was not clearly erroneous. See Novack, 525 N.W.2d at 597 (means manifestly contrary to weight of evidence or not reasonably supported by evidence as a whole).

Appellant argues that the court's order must be based on a correct date of birth, citing State v. Rojas, 569 N.W.2d 418 (Minn. App. 1997) (reversing conviction because appellant's age was disputed when district court accepted guilty plea). However, Rojas is distinguishable. Rojas argued that he was not 18 when he entered his guilty plea in district court. Age was contested throughout the proceedings with Rojas maintaining that he was not 18 and admitting that he had intentionally given the INS an erroneous birth date to avoid serving in the Salvadoran army. Id. at 419. Moreover, the district court's findings in Rojas recognized the dispute about age. Id. at 419-20.

By contrast, appellant's age was not disputed in district court. Failure to challenge errors at the district court limits appellate review to whether the facts support the findings and whether the findings support the conclusions of law. See Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn. 454, 458, 246 N.W.2d 565, 569 (1976); accord Sauter v. Wasemiller, 389 N.W.2d 200, 201-02 (Minn. 1986) (district court must be given opportunity to correct errors). This record clearly supports the district court's finding that appellant was 16 at the time the crimes were committed and appellant admitted he was 16 in his statement to police and through his counsel at the certification hearing. The district court's inconsistent findings as to a specific date of birth do not require remand because the record supports the finding necessary for the presumption of certification. See Gruenhagen, 310 Minn. at 458, 246 N.W.2d at 569 (review to determine if record supports findings and findings support legal conclusions).

The presumption of certification does not depend on the district court's clearly erroneous date of birth finding, and accordingly that finding was harmless error. See Benson, 561 N.W.2d at 540 (Minn. App. 1997) (affirming district court where appellant failed to demonstrate substantial prejudice by clearly erroneous findings).