may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Bobbie Jo Knutson,
Filed June 1, 1999
Dakota County District Court
File No. T49774667
Michael E. Molenda, Apple Valley City Attorney, Christopher A. Grove, Assistant Apple Valley City Attorney, Severson, Sheldon, Dougherty & Molenda, P.A., 7300 West 147th Street, Suite 600, Apple Valley, MN 55124 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Scott G. Swanson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414; and
Mary D. Wingfield, Assistant District Public Defender, First Judicial District, Suite 400, 7300 West 147th Street, Apple Valley, MN 55124-3136 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellant Bobbie Jo Knutson was convicted of a misdemeanor violation under Minn. Stat. § 609.50 (1996) (obstructing legal process), because of her actions during the attempted arrest of her husband. She alleges that the evidence was insufficient to show her physical interference with police officers. We affirm.
On November 7, 1997, Apple Valley police officers began searching for Scott Knutson on a gross misdemeanor arrest warrant for assaulting appellant, his wife. They tried to contact him at work and drove by his home looking for signs of his presence. On November 15, 1997, an officer saw two sets of tire tracks in the snow leading to both stalls of the Knutsons' garage. An officer called the Knutson home while other officers stationed themselves so that they could see all doors leading to the residence. A man answered the phone, identified himself as Rodney, and claimed that Scott was not home.
After the call, officers knocked on the door to the house. They received no immediate response, but kept knocking. Appellant came to the door after a few minutes, looked out the window next to the door, and told the police that they would have to call before coming to her house. While appellant was talking, a curtain fell off the window. Appellant covered the window and did not let officers enter the home.
The police left to get a search warrant while an officer watched the house. No one was observed entering or exiting. Before executing the warrant, the police called the house and told whoever answered that they had a warrant and to open the door or it would be destroyed. When the officers knocked again, appellant cooperated and let them into the house.
The police searched the house but could not find Scott. Several times an officer asked appellant where her husband was and she told him that he was not there. The trunk of a Buick in the adjacent garage was the only large space not yet searched. The police asked appellant if she had the keys. She told them that she did not--that her husband had the keys because he drove that car. The officers found the key on top of a refrigerator. They opened the trunk and found Scott. Appellant and Scott were the only adults in the house; there was no "Rodney."
Following a jury trial, appellant was found guilty of violating Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(1), obstructing legal process. The trial court denied appellant's motion for a new trial and judgment of acquittal.
When considering a challenge to the sufficiency of evidence, an appellate court must view the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict and assume that the jury believed the state's witnesses and disbelieved contrary evidence. State v. Robinson, 539 N.W.2d 231, 238 (Minn. 1995). We are to uphold the verdict if the jury, giving due regard to the presumption of innocence and the state's burden of proving the offender's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably have found the defendant guilty. State v. Johnson, 568 N.W. 2d 426, 435 (Minn. 1997). Where a conviction is based upon circumstantial evidence, this court will sustain the verdict on appeal if the reasonable inferences from such evidence are consistent only with defendant's guilt and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).
A conviction for obstructing legal process is constitutionally permissible if it is proven that the defendant committed physical acts that substantially frustrated or hindered officers performing an official duty. State v. Krawsky, 426 N.W.2d 875, 877 (Minn. 1988). Appellant contends that her actions amounted only to verbal interference with the officers and that there is insufficient circumstantial evidence of physical obstruction.
We conclude that the circumstantial evidence permits only one reasonable inference, that appellant engaged in deceiving the police by means of representations mixed with conduct of helping her husband hide in the trunk or, at a minimum, planning to release him after the police were diverted. Contrary to appellant's assertions, there was no other plausible method for his release. Appellant suggests that her husband could have placed himself in the trunk, planning to exit by prying open the trunk from the inside, or may have hidden himself with no exit plan. These are speculative, unreasonable inferences and not rational constructions of the evidence.
Because we are convinced that the evidence permitted a finding of physical obstruction tied with verbal deceit in direct dealings with police, we decline to address whether efforts to keep officers from the house enlarged the physical obstruction or when misleading representations of fact constitute, by themselves, a physical obstruction or hindrance that substantially frustrates legal process. See Krawsky, 426 N.W.2d at 877 (noting that the statute may be used to punish "words that by themselves have the effect of physically obstructing or interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties--e.g., * * * to punish a person who runs beside an officer pursuing a felon in a public street shouting and cursing at the officer if the shouting and cursing physically obstructs the officer's pursuit and if the person intends by his conduct to obstruct or interfere with the officer").
 Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1, provides in part:
Crime. Whoever intentionally does any of the following may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 2:
obstructs, hinders, or prevents the lawful execution of any legal process, civil or criminal, or apprehension of another on a charge or conviction of a criminal offense.