Appellant was charged with third-degree driving while impaired. Pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.03, subd. 2, at a Zoom hearing, his defense counsel indicated a plea petition would be filed and that he would obtain Appellant’s permission to sign the petition on his behalf. The district court questioned Appellant on the record about the plea agreement and plea petition, and told Appellant he could permit his attorney to sign the petition for him. Appellant confirmed he understood. A plea petition was filed, which Appellant’s attorney signed on his behalf, and accepted by the district court. Appellant appeals his conviction, arguing his plea was not voluntary and intelligent.
The Court of Appeals notes that Rule 15.03, subd. 2, which permits the entry of a guilty plea to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charge via the filing of a plea petition, explicitly requires that the petition be signed by the defendant. A constitutionally valid plea is accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, and is established in a proper factual basis on the record. This record can include a verbatim recording of the proceedings and/or a plea petition signed by the defendant and filed with the court.
A plea petition signed by the defendant is prima facie evidence of a voluntary and intelligent guilty plea. Without the defendant’s signature, the record must contain other evidence to establish the validity of the plea. Here, the record does not show Appellant was advised of and forfeited his constitutional rights or that he understood and agreed to the terms set forth in the plea agreement. Reversed and remanded to allow Appellant to withdraw his guilty plea. State v. Lawrence, A22-0080, 2022 WL 17409571 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 5, 2022).
Appellant was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct against a physically helpless victim after entering the victim's bedroom while she was sleeping and engaging in sexual penetration with her. The jury also found the offense was committed in the victim’s zone of privacy, which the district court relied on to impose an upward durational departure from the sentencing guidelines. The sentencing guidelines’ list of aggravating factors that may support an upward sentencing departure include “[t]he offense was committed in a location in which the victim had an expectation of privacy” (zone of privacy factor). A single aggravating factor may support upward departure, “[b]ut even when the jury finds the presence of one or more of these factors, the district court must then determine that it constitutes a ‘substantial and compelling’ circumstance that renders the offense significantly more serious than a typical offense.” Here, the evidence at trial established that Appellant was not allowed in the victim’s room when she was sleeping without her permission due to a prior incident and she had her door closed on the day of the offense. The court also finds the district court did not err in finding that the commission of the offense within the victim’s “zone of privacy” constituted a substantial and compelling ground making the offense significantly more serious than a typical offense. Here, the victim had to repeatedly return to the location of her assault, her own bedroom, making Appellant’s conduct more serious than a typical “physically helpless victim” criminal sexual conduct offense, which generally occur outside of the victim’s zone of privacy. Appellant’s sentence is affirmed. State v. Vanengen, A22-0105, 2022 WL 17747774 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 19, 2022).