This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


State of Minnesota,


Mitchell Edmond Whitley,

Filed October 12, 1999
Reversed and remanded
Willis, Judge

Hennepin County District Court
File No. 99013403

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and

Steven M. Tallen, Tallen & Baertschi, 4640 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)

Mark D. Nyvold, Suite 1030, 46 East 4th Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant State of Minnesota claims that the district court erred in dismissing, over the state's objection, a misdemeanor citation against respondent Mitchell E. Whitley for driving after suspension and accepting Whitley's plea of guilty to a petty misdemeanor speeding citation. We reverse and remand.


Whitley was charged by citation in January 1999 with driving after suspension (DAS), a misdemeanor, and speeding, a petty misdemeanor. The state suggests that, when Whitley appeared in court in April 1999, an off-the-record plea agreement was arrived at. The details of any such agreement are not part of the record, but the transcript of the proceedings shows that when Whitley appeared before the judge, he was prepared to plead guilty to the DAS charge. When the judge asked Whitley if his license had been suspended for failure to pay a fine, Whitley replied that he had paid the fine before he received the DAS citation, but he was told there had been a delay in processing his payment. The court accepted this explanation and immediately dismissed the DAS citation. The state objected on the ground that there were facts in the file to substantiate the charge. Whitley then pleaded guilty to the speeding violation and was fined $75. This appeal followed.


The state argues that the district court erred by dismissing the DAS citation over the state's objection and allowing Whitley to plead guilty to the speeding violation. The state acknowledges that upon motion of a defendant, the court may accept a plea to an offense of a lesser degree provided the court is satisfied "that the prosecution cannot introduce evidence sufficient to justify the submission of the offense charged to the jury or that it would be a manifest injustice not to accept the plea." Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.07. The district court accepted Whitley's statement that he had paid the fine before receiving the DAS citation, stating that "Mr. Whitley has made good on his debt." Because the district court accepted Whitley's plea to the lesser charge of speeding immediately after Whitley stated he had paid the fine and because nothing in the record suggests that the prosecution would have been unable to introduce evidence sufficient to justify the submission of the DAS offense to a jury, we conclude that the district court accepted the plea on the basis that to not do so would be a "manifest injustice."

We review a determination of manifest injustice made to support the acceptance of a guilty plea to a lesser offense under an abuse-of-discretion standard. State v. Favre, 428 N.W.2d 828, 831 (Minn. App. 1988) (applying abuse-of-discretion standard).

This court has previously held

[t]he power of a [district] court to accept a defendant's plea to a lesser offense over the State's objection significantly usurps the prosecutor's broad discretion in determining the manner in which to fulfill his duty to prosecute. It should only be invoked in rare instances.

State v. McAllister, 399 N.W.2d 685, 688 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding court's acceptance of plea to lesser offense was not acceptable under manifest-injustice analysis where court believed statute was unconstitutionally vague and enforcement was discriminatory) (citation omitted). The facts here do not present one of the "rare instances" where a court, to avoid manifest injustice, may accept a plea to a lesser offense over a prosecutor's objection. See Favre, 428 N.W.2d at 831 (holding manifest-injustice provision more properly applies to prosecutorial decisions based on unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other arbitrary classification). The district court, therefore, abused its discretion by dismissing the DAS citation.

The state also claims that the district court abused its discretion by injecting itself into plea negotiations, citing State v. Moe, 479 N.W.2d 427, 429 (Minn. App. 1992) (stating court should neither usurp responsibility of counsel nor participate in plea bargaining or negotiation itself), review denied (Minn. Feb. 10, 1992). The record does not support the state's claim.

Finally, Whitley moves to strike portions of the state's brief that mention the terms of the plea agreement, which are not part of the record. We have addressed this appeal without relying on the terms of the plea agreement.

Reversed and remanded.