DISTRICT COURT HAS DISCRETION TO DENY ELIGIBILITY UNDER THE MIERA EVEN IF THE PETITIONER WAS EXONERATED

The district court concluded that Respondent was eligible for compensation based on exoneration under the Minnesota Imprisonment and Exoneration Remedies Act (MIERA). She was originally convicted second-degree culpable negligence manslaughter, but the conviction was reversed when the Minnesota Supreme Court found insufficient evidence that she was culpably negligent.

The MIERA requires a district court to determine (1) whether a petitioner was exonerated; (2) whether a petitioner has established their innocence; (3) whether the petitioner meets additional elements for eligibility listed in Minn. Stat. § 590.11, subd. 5; and (4) whether, after a hearing at which additional evidence may be presented and considered, the court exercises its discretion and determines the petitioner is eligible for compensation

The Court of Appeals finds the district court properly concluded steps (1) through (3) were met, but finds the district court did not properly exercise its discretion as required in step (4). The district court held an evidentiary hearing and received additional evidence. After the hearing, the district court made factual findings suggesting Respondent was not eligible, as it found that Respondent had a significant role in the victim’s death. However, the district court improperly interpreted the MIERA as requiring a finding of eligibility based solely on Respondent’s exoneration status. Remanded to the district court to exercise its statutory discretion. Back v. State, A20-1098, 2021 WL 2306726 (Minn. Ct. App. Jun. 7, 2021).

TAMPERING WITH A MOTOR VEHICLE IS A LESSER-INCLUDED OFFENSE OF MOTOR VEHICLE THEFT

Police responded to a Dodge Avenger crashed in a ditch, where they found Appellant and his girlfriend, who had the registered owner’s permission to use the vehicle. Before the Avenger was towed, an officer took photographs of the scene and items in the vehicle with his cell phone. After Appellant left the scene, the officer discovered his cell phone missing and it was found in Appellant’s backpack. During this time, officers also responded to a stolen Chevrolet Silverado found less than two miles away from the Avenger crash. Appellant’s DNA was found on the Silverado’s steering wheel. Appellant was convicted of theft of a motor vehicle, theft, and tampering with a motor vehicle.

On appeal, among other arguments the Court of Appeals rejects, Appellant argues the tampering with a motor vehicle conviction must be vacated because it is a lesser-included offense of motor vehicle theft. The Court of Appeals agrees. A defendant may be convicted of either the crime charged or an included offense, but not both. An included offense may be a lesser degree of the same crime or a crime necessarily proved if the crime charged is proved. The court asks “whether any element of tampering with a motor vehicle – tampering or entering into or on a motor vehicle – is true for each element of theft of a motor vehicle – taking or driving.” The court finds “driving” a motor vehicle always entails either entering into or on the vehicle or tampering with it. In addition, a person cannot take a motor vehicle without tampering with it. Thus, the court concludes that the elements of tampering with a motor vehicle are necessarily proven when the elements of theft of a motor vehicle are proven. As such, tampering is a lesser-included offense of theft. Appellant’s tampering conviction is reversed, but his theft convictions are affirmed. State v. Kimmes, A20-0793, 2021 WL 2407857 (Minn. Ct. App. Jun. 14, 2021).

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