This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




State of Minnesota,



Nathan Joel Gulbranson,


Filed June 15, 1999


Schumacher, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. 97116184

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

Brian A. Lutes, Crystal City Attorney, Rondoni, MacMillan & Schneider, Ltd., 175 Waterford Park, 505 North Highway 169, Minneapolis, MN 55441 (for respondent)

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Ann McCaughan, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.



Nathan Joel Gulbranson argues the district court erred in finding probable cause for his arrest and also in the jury instructions. We affirm.


At about 3:00 a.m. on November 11, 1997, a 911 call was made to the Hennepin County dispatcher. The call was recorded as a "hang up" but was traced to the Gulbranson residence in the city of Crystal. Corporal Daniel Drake and Officer Kathy Lefty were dispatched to the Gulbranson residence. Corporal Drake knew the occupants of the residence to be Gulbranson, his brother, and their parents. Corporal Drake received information from the Hennepin County dispatcher that two adult males in the house had been fighting. The officers arrived at the residence and their knock at the side door was answered by Gulbranson's brother.

At the probable cause hearing, the testimony of Officer Lefty and Gulbranson's witnesses differed as to what happened after Gulbranson's brother answered the door. Officer Lefty testified that Gulbranson's brother told her that he and Gulbranson had been arguing and that Gulbranson threatened him and then began hitting, striking, and spitting on him. Officer Lefty also testified that Gulbranson's mother told her the boys had been fighting and she was sick of it. Officer Lefty testified that when she and Corporal Drake asked to come into the house, Gulbranson's mother said that would be fine. Gulbranson's mother testified, however, that the officers never asked permission to enter.

Corporal Drake and Officer Lefty subsequently found Gulbranson in a corner of the basement and attempted to arrest him. A struggle ensued, and Gulbranson eventually broke and ran out the door. Once apprehended, Gulbranson was charged with domestic assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.2242, subd. 2 (1996), fifth-degree assault in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.224, subd. 2(b) (1996), obstruction of legal process or arrest in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50 (1996), escape from custody in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.485, subd. 2(1) (1996), and disorderly conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.72 (1996).

At the end of the probable cause hearing, the court found Officer Lefty's testimony to be credible and the defense witnesses' testimony inconsistent. In addition to finding that the officers had probable cause to arrest Gulbranson for domestic assault, the court found that the officers had permission to enter the house and that Gulbranson fled after he was told he was under arrest.

The jury acquitted Gulbranson of disorderly conduct and fifth-degree assault but convicted him of escape from custody and obstruction of legal process.


1. Probable cause is determined by deciding

whether the officers in the particular circumstances, conditioned by their own observations and information and guided by the whole of their police experience, reasonably could have believed that a crime had been committed by the person to be arrested.

State v. Olson, 436 N.W.2d 92, 94 (Minn. 1989) (citation omitted), aff'd 495 U.S. 91, 110 S. Ct. 1684 (1990). An appellate court independently reviews the facts to determine if the police officer's actions were reasonable. Id. But a trial court's factual findings will not be reversed unless clearly erroneous. State v. Dickerson, 481 N.W.2d 840, 843 (Minn. 1992), aff'd, 508 U.S. 366, 113 S. Ct. 2130 (1993). The trial court's finding that Officer Lefty was the most credible witness is not clearly erroneous.

Gulbranson claims that the officers could not arrest him without witnessing the assault. Under Minnesota law, however, an officer may make a warrantless arrest within the suspect's residence if the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect committed a domestic assault within 12 hours, even if the officer did not see the assault. Minn. Stat. § 629.341, subd. 1 (1996).

2. Gulbranson was charged with escape from custody under a statute that makes it illegal for anyone to "escape[ ] while held in lawful custody on a charge or conviction of a crime." Minn. Stat § 609.485, subd. 2(1). Gulbranson challenges the jury instructions for both the obstruction of justice and fleeing from custody charges, claiming the judge should have instructed the jury to consider the lawfulness of the arrest.

A judge's refusal to give a requested jury instruction lies within the discretion of the trial court and no error results if no abuse of discretion is shown. State v. Blasus, 445 N.W.2d 535, 542 (Minn. 1989). "The jury instructions must be viewed in their entirety to determine whether they fairly and adequately explained the law of the case." State v. Flores, 418 N.W.2d 150, 155 (Minn. 1988) (citation omitted).

Gulbranson did not object to the court's jury instructions pertaining to the obstruction of justice charge, but only the fleeing from custody charge, and requested instructions on the lawfulness of the arrest. The district court declined to give the instruction.

Gulbranson relies on the case of State v. Piri, 295 Minn. 247, 251-252, 204 N.W.2d 120, 123 (1973), for the proposition that a jury may determine the legality of custody in an escape from custody charge. His reliance on Piri is misplaced. Piri does not relate to instructing the jury on lawfulness of custody. Gulbranson directs our attention to the comments to CRIMJIG 24.02, which mentions Piri, stating:

Ordinarily nothing should be said about the lawfulness of the custody or the nature of the crime (other than its degree), unless defendant raises some question about the procedure involved in his custody, in which case an instruction specially tailored to the circumstances may be necessary.

10A Minnesota Practice, CRIMJIG 24.02 (Supp. 1998).

A defendant has the right to have all the elements of an offense submitted to the jury. State v. Ferguson, 561 N.W.2d 901, 902 (Minn. 1997). Whether the officers had probable cause to arrest Gulbranson, however, is a legal question that had already been decided by the court at the pretrial hearing.

In this case, the trial court found probable cause for the arrest. The court followed the recommended jury instructions, which, in order to convict, require that the jury must find that Gulbranson was "in custody" when he fled. Gulbranson's counsel argued the "lawful custody" issue before the jury during closing arguments. Given these circumstances and viewing the jury instructions in their entirety, we find no abuse of discretion by the district court.