This opinion will be unpublished and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:

R.Z.L., Child.

Filed February 10, 1998

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Huspeni, Judge

Hubbard County District Court

File No. J49750109

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Asst. State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant R.Z.L.)

Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota St., St. Paul, MN 55101; Tim R. Faver, Beltrami County Attorney, 619 Beltrami Ave. N.W., Bemidji, MN 56601; Gregory D. Larson, Hubbard County Attorney, 301 Court Avenue, P. O. Box 486, Park Rapids, MN 56470 (for respondent state)

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.



Appellant challenges the juvenile court's determination that he was guilty of first-degree attempted arson, its subsequent disposition order, and modification of that order. Because there is sufficient evidence to sustain appellant's conviction for first-degree attempted arson, we affirm; because the juvenile court failed to make the necessary detailed findings in its disposition order and modified that order without notice or a hearing, we reverse in part and remand.


On March 27, 1997, Beltrami County Deputy Ernest Beitel was called to the residence of Ernie Howard regarding a report of property damage. On arrival, Deputy Beitel observed a wet substance on the porch and house, a gasoline can, and the smell of gasoline. Howard identified appellant R.Z.L., a juvenile, as the person responsible for pouring gasoline on the house. Appellant was arrested and charged with first-degree attempted arson. A hearing was held in Beltrami County Juvenile Court. The only person to testify was Deputy Beitel. Based on his testimony, appellant was convicted of first-degree attempted arson. The court transferred jurisdiction over appellant to Hubbard County because appellant had a CHIPS (child in need of protection or services) petition pending there.

The Hubbard County Juvenile Court entered a dispositional order sending appellant to detention at the Central Minnesota Regional Detention Center (CMRDC) in Brainerd for an indefinite period of time with review in six months. CMRDC officials filed a request for amended findings, asking the court to order appellant to complete the 180-day program. The next day, the court amended its order without a hearing.


1. First-Degree Attempted Arson

Appellant contends that the evidence introduced by respondent State of Minnesota was circumstantial and not sufficient to uphold his conviction for first-degree attempted arson.[1] We disagree.

Where there is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, our review on appeal is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the [trier of fact] to reach the verdict which [it] did.

State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989).

At trial, Deputy Beitel testified as to what he observed at the house and as to what the victim told him had occurred.[2] Deputy Beitel also testified that when he arrested appellant, appellant admitted being at the victim's house. When the deputy asked appellant why he had gone to the house, he responded that he went there to "torch it." Appellant also stated that putting him in jail would not prevent him from later setting the house on fire.

A confession, coupled with evidence that a crime has been committed, is sufficient to uphold a conviction. See Minn. Stat. § 634.03 (1996) ("A confession of the defendant shall not be sufficient to warrant conviction without evidence that the offense charged has been committed * * *."). Appellant acknowledged that he went to the house to "torch it," signifying an intent to commit a crime. Pouring gasoline on the house and porch constitutes a substantial step towards committing the crime. There is sufficient evidence to uphold appellant's conviction for first-degree attempted arson.

2. Sufficiency of the Findings

The trial court has broad discretion in choosing a proper juvenile delinquency disposition. In re Welfare of J.A.J., 545 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Minn. App. 1996). Minnesota law requires, however, that:

Any order for a disposition * * * shall contain written findings of fact to support the disposition ordered, and shall also set forth in writing the following information:

why the best interests of the child are served by the disposition ordered; and

what alternative dispositions were considered by the court and why such dispositions were not appropriate in the instant case.

Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1 (1996); see also Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(A). Because written findings are essential to appellate review, the failure to make such findings constitutes reversible error. In re Welfare of M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d 494, 499 (Minn. App. 1990) (holding that findings that did not describe the treatment provided by the facility chosen, or how that treatment would help solve the child's problems, were insufficient); see also In re Welfare of L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 400 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding that findings "commenting on an earlier placement and * * * on a course of disobedience" but failing to address alternatives or the child's best interests were insufficient).

In the present case, the order for disposition stated:

* * * [Appellant] was found to have committed the offense of Felony Attempted Arson in the First Degree in violation of M.S.A. 609.561, Subd. 1.

A pre-dispositional investigation was completed and a written report was filed with Beltrami County Court.

[Appellant] had a 30-day evaluation in August 1996 and his behavior has deteriorated since then.

A secure detention facility is recommended as [appellant] has been very assaultive on numerous occasions.

The disposition ordered is the least restrictive alternative at this time and is in the best interest of the child. The agency made reasonable efforts to prevent the placement.

This disposition fails to address what, if any, alternative dispositions were considered and does not explain why detention for an indefinite period of time is "necessary" and in the "best interests of the child." Without this essential information, we are unable to conduct meaningful review of the juvenile court's decisions. As a result, we remand to the juvenile court for more detailed findings in accordance with Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1.

3. Amending Dispositional Order

Appellant argues that the court erred when it modified appellant's disposition to include the mandatory completion of a 180-day program without notifying appellant or conducting a hearing. We agree with appellant. See Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 4 (1996) ("upon the court's own motion or that of any interested party, the court [may], after notice to the parties and a hearing, make some other disposition of the case") (emphasis added); see also M.A.C., 455 N.W.2d at 497-98 (holding that a court is not authorized to change its original disposition without providing prior notification or holding a hearing); Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.08, subd. 5 (1996).

The court received the motion for modification on June 16, 1997, and entered the modification on June 17, 1997. There is nothing in the record that indicates that the court notified appellant of the proposed modification or informed him of his right to a formal hearing before modifying the order. The court erred by modifying the original disposition without providing notice or conducting a hearing as required by Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 4. We must remand to enable the court to conduct the statutorily required hearing.

We affirm the juvenile court's adjudication of appellant as guilty of first-degree attempted arson. However, we remand for sufficient written findings according to Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1, and for notice and a hearing before modifying appellant's disposition according to Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 4.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

[1] The arson statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.561, subd. 1 (1996), states:

Whoever unlawfully by means of fire or explosives, intentionally destroys or damages any building that is used as a dwelling at the time the act is committed, whether the inhabitant is present therein at the time of the act or not, * * * commits arson in the first degree * * *.

The attempt statute, Minn. Stat. § 609.17, subd. 1 (1996), states:

Whoever, with intent to commit a crime, does an act which is a substantial step toward, and more than preparation for, the commission of the crime is guilty of an attempt to commit that crime * * * .

[2] Appellant argues that because the victim had, in fact, not been home when the gasoline was poured and had not actually witnessed any activity, the testimony of the police officer regarding what the victim was told by a third-party eyewitness was improperly admitted hearsay. See Minn. R. Evid. 801 ("'Hearsay' is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted."). We agree that this testimony was improperly admitted hearsay. We note, however, that it was not used by respondent in closing argument and was not relied on by the trial court in finding appellant guilty. The trial court merely noted that appellant confessed to the deputy on the way to the police station and that there was physical evidence that a crime had been committed.