may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
1995 Dodge Ram Pick-up, White,
MN License 348MGP, VIN No.
Anoka County District Court
File No. C697895
Harlan Goulett, Allan H. Caplan & Associates, P.A., 525 Lumber Exchange, 10 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Robert D. Goodell, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka County Government Center, 2100 Third Avenue, 7th Floor, Anoka, MN 55303 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Schultz, Judge.
Appellant asserts that (1) his Alford plea and his ex-girlfriend's deposition that stated that she, unknown to appellant, placed drugs in his truck preclude summary judgment and that (2) claimants have a right to a jury trial in administrative forfeiture proceedings. We affirm.
On December 6, 1996, appellant Michael Schultz was arrested after a police officer determined that Schultz was driving with a revoked driver's license. The officer subsequently discovered that Schultz's truck contained approximately 220 grams of marijuana. Schultz was charged with possessing a controlled substance under Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (1996), and with driving with a revoked license under Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 2 (1996), and on December 7, 1996, Schultz was served with a notice of intent to seize and forfeit the truck.
On January 23, 1997, Schultz requested a judicial determination of forfeiture. On July 28, 1997, Schultz waived an omnibus hearing and entered an Alford plea on the controlled substance charge. On January 13, 1998, the district court granted the county's summary judgment motion in the forfeiture proceeding.
On appeal from a district court's grant of summary judgment, this court determines (1) whether any genuine issues of material fact exist and (2) whether the lower court erred in applying the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990). The reviewing courts need not defer to the lower court's decisions on legal issues. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984).
Schultz contends that the trial court erred in determining that his plea, entered pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37-38, 91 S. Ct. 160, 167-68 (1970), was determinative in the subsequent forfeiture action. Schultz argues that his Alford plea in the criminal case is only admissible, not conclusive, in the forfeiture action. Schultz also asserts that the state waived any res judicata defenses.
Under the administrative forfeiture statute, a conveyance device is presumed to be subject to forfeiture if it contained "controlled substances with a retail value of $100 or more if possession or sale of the controlled substance would be a felony under chapter 152." Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 1(a)(2) (1996). The claimant must rebut this presumption. Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 1(b) (1996). In addition, the claimant must demand a request for judicial determination within 60 days of being served with the notice of seizure. Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 3(a) (1996). If the demand is timely, the forfeiture is conducted under Minn. Stat. § 609.531, subd. 6(a). Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 3(c) (1996). The state is not required to submit responsive pleadings. Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 3(a). Although the state has the benefit of the forfeiture presumption in Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 1(2), the state must still prove the underlying offense by clear and convincing evidence. Minn. Stat. § 609.531, subd. 6a(a) (1996).
Here, the main issue before this court is to determine what effect an Alford plea has on a subsequent forfeiture action. In State v. Goulette, 258 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1977), the Minnesota Supreme Court, in allowing Minnesota courts to accept Alford pleas, held that trial courts may accept guilty pleas even though the accused professes his innocence if the plea is voluntarily, knowingly, and understandingly entered; is based on interrogation by the court; is based on a sufficient factual basis; and if the court reasonably concludes that the evidence would support a jury verdict of guilty. The record demonstrates that Schultz was fully aware of the forfeiture proceedings when he entered his guilty plea, nor does Schultz argue that the trial court improperly accepted his plea. Thus, in the forfeiture action, Schultz can not properly disclaim those factors that supported the underlying criminal conviction. Additionally, because the county is not required to submit a responsive pleading under Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 3(a), the county did not waive any res judicata defense.
Schultz relies on Glens Falls Group Ins. Corp. v. Hoium, 294 Minn. 247, 249, 200 N.W.2d 189, 190-91 (1972), to argue that that his guilty plea is only admissible, not conclusive, in subsequent proceedings. We believe Hoium is distinguishable. In Hoium, the supreme court considered whether an individual's traditional guilty plea in a criminal case would preclude the individual from denying the commission of the same act in a civil action. Id. at 248, 200 N.W.2d at 190. Here, in contrast, the administrative forfeiture action follows directly from and is dependent on the underlying criminal charge. See Minn. Stat. § 609.5314, subd. 1(a)(2) (stating presumption exists "if possession or sale of the controlled substance would be a felony under chapter 152"). Thus, we conclude an individual's guilty plea in the underlying criminal charge is determinative in a derivative forfeiture action.
Schultz next argues that the Minnesota Constitution affords him the right to a jury trial in administrative forfeiture actions because he is attempting to recover his specific personal property. See Minn. Const. art. I, § 4 (establishing right to trial by jury for all cases at law). We decline to address this argument. Here, the district court granted summary judgment to the state, and thus, did not deny Schultz a jury trial. Accordingly, this issue was not before the district court and is thus not properly before this court. See Watson v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 566 N.W.2d 683, 687 (Minn. 1997) (concluding "the general rule is that appellate courts will not consider questions which were not presented to or decided by the district court"). Further, any decision on this issue would constitute an advisory opinion. See In re Application of Northwestern Bell Tel. Co. for Auth. to Change its Schedule of Tel. Rates for Customers Within State of Minnesota, 371 N.W.2d 563, 568 (Minn. App. 1985) (stating this court does not issue advisory opinions), review denied (Minn. Sept. 26, 1985).
*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.