CHECK FORGERY: FORGED SIGNATURE ON FRONT OF CHECK IS NOT A “FALSE ENDORSEMENT”

Appellant was found guilty of check forgery by false endorsement for writing 18 checks from S.H.’s account to a grocery store, forging S.H.’s signature on the signature line on the front of the check. Appellant argues he did not “endorse” the checks, because he did not sign the backs of the checks.

Appellant was convicted under Minn. Stat. § 609.631, subd. 2(2), which makes it a crime for a person, with the intent to defraud, to “falsely endorse or alter a check so that it purports to have been endorsed by another.” “Endorse” is not defined, but the court determines that, with respect to checks, the term has an established, accepted special or technical meaning, which is reflected in dictionary and legal definitions of the word, as well as in Minnesota statutes and caselaw. This special or technical understanding is that an endorsement on a check is a signature other than that of the check’s maker.

The court further concludes that this special, technical meaning of “endorse” applies to the check forgery statute. Because section 609.631, subd. 2(2), clearly uses ”endorse” only as it relates to checks, it is reasonable to conclude the legislature intended “endorse” to have its special, technical meaning. Moreover, section 609.631 criminalizes the act of the false making of a check in subd. 2(1) and the false endorsing of a check in subd. 2(2). Only the special, technical meaning of “endorse” recognizes that the act of making a check is separate from the act of endorsing a check.

Finally, the court finds the evidence is insufficient to support Appellant’s conviction, because there is no evidence he falsely endorsed or altered a check, only evidence that he falsely made checks. Appellant’s conviction is reversed. State v. Jonsgaard, 949 N.W.2d 161 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 10, 2020).

VEHICLE FORFEITURE: DRIVER PARTICIPATING IN IGNITION INTERLOCK PROGRAM MUST BE ENROLLED WITH THE VEHICLE SUBJECT TO FORFEITURE PROCEEDINGS IN ORDER TO STAY FORFEITURE

Appellant's 1985 Ferrari was forfeited after he was convicted of DWI. He argues on appeal that the forfeiture should have been stayed due to his participation in the Ignition Interlock program. Two months after this DWI, Appellant was arrested for another DWI offense, after which he enrolled again in the Ignition Interlock program with his Range Rover. Ignition Interlock was not installed in his other vehicles, including his Ferrari.

Under a 2019 addition to the DWI forfeiture scheme, an exception to forfeiture was enacted. Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 13(a), specifically provides that "[i]f the driver who committed a designated offense or whose conduct resulted in a designated license revocation becomes a program participant in the ignition interlock program under section 171.306 at any time before the motor vehicle is forfeited, the forfeiture proceeding is stayed and the vehicle must be returned." The question is whether this section requires Appellant to participate in the program with the to-be-forfeited car, here, his Ferrari, as opposed to any car - that is, whether his participation in the program with his Range Rover qualified him for stay of the forfeiture of his Ferrari.

The court points to section 169A.13, subd. 13(a)’s use of "the vehicle," not just "vehicle," which the court finds to mean that the section refers to not just any vehicle, but to a particular vehicle. Given the statute as a whole, which addresses vehicles subject to forfeiture, the court finds that the particular vehicle referred to is the vehicle that is to be forfeited. Thus, the driver must be participating in the program with the vehicle that is to be forfeited to qualify for a stay of the forfeiture under section 169A.63, subd. 13(a).

Here, Appellant did not enroll in the Ignition Interlock program with his Ferarri, the vehicle subject to forfeiture. Thus, he was not eligible for a stay of the forfeiture proceedings under section 169A.63, subd. 13. Jensen v. 1985 Ferrari, 949 N.W.2d 729 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 31, 2020).

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