EXONERATION COMPENSATION: VACATION OF CONVICTION DUE TO CHANGE IN LAW IS NOT “EXONERATION”

Appellant was convicted in 2010 of being a felon in possession of a firearm after holding a woman against her will with an air-compressed BB gun. His conviction was vacated after State v. Haywood, 886 N.W.2d 485 (Minn. 2016), held that an air-compressed BB gun is not a “firearm” under the felon in possession statute. Appellant petitioned for an order determining he was eligible for compensation based on exoneration, but his petition was denied by the district court and Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court finds Appellant’s conviction was not vacated “on grounds consistent with innocence,” as required by Minn. Stat. § 590.11. To be “exonerated” under section 590.11, as is relevant here, a person’s conviction must be vacated by a court on grounds consistent with innocence, that is, exonerated based on factual innocence or exonerated because a conviction was vacated or reversed and there is any evidence of factual innocence. A vacated conviction alone is insufficient under section 590.11 – there must also be a showing of “factual innocence.” The court notes “the Legislature used a very specific form of ‘innocence’ to ascribe meaning to ‘grounds consistent with innocence’: ‘any evidence of factual innocence.’” The court notes that the plain and ordinary meaning of “factual innocence” is “the state of being not guilty of a crime (innocence) but only when the reason is restricted to or based on facts (factual).” Here, Appellant’s claim of innocence is not based on the facts – his case turns on a legal significance, the statutory meaning of “firearm.” The facts of his case did not change and his conviction was vacated based on a decision that the State did not have a legal basis to charge an individual with unlawful possession of a firearm based on an air-powered BB gun. Thus, because Appellant did not demonstrate he was exonerated on grounds consistent with innocence, he was not “exonerated” under section 590.11. Kingbird v. State, 973 N.W.2d 633 (Minn. May 4, 2022).

RESTITUTION: COURT MUST CONSIDER THE VALUE OF ECONOMIC BENEFITS CONFERRED ON A VICTIM IN CALCULATING VICTIM’S ECONOMIC LOSS

Appellant was disqualified from participating as a medical assistance provider due to a 2010 conviction for medical assistance fraud. From 2012 to 2015, however, she formed, owned, and operated eight agencies and businesses that billed the Department of Human Services (DHS) for nursing services. She pleaded guilty to racketeering in 2016, admitting her agencies billed DHS for services provided to clients eligible for medical assistance programs, that she billed DHS for more services than were provided, and that her agencies gave clients kickbacks and other incentives. The district court ordered Appellant to pay DHS $2.64 million in restitution. In her postconviction petition, Appellant argues that $1.1 million of the $2.64 million her agencies received from DHS was used to pay for nursing services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries, so that amount should not be included in the restitution award. The district court denied her petition and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court holds that the district court must consider the value of economic benefits a defendant confers on a victim when calculating the amount of economic loss the victim sustained. The restitution statute includes a list of factors to consider when determining the proper amount of restitution, which includes the amount of economic loss sustained by the victim as a result of the offense. Minn. Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1(a)(1). “The amount of economic loss” is not defined in the statute. Looking to dictionary definitions and prior case law interpreting the term “result,” the Court finds that “the amount of economic loss sustained by the victim as a result of the offense” “is the total or aggregate diminution or deprivation of money, goods, or services that a victim suffers as a direct result or natural consequence of the defendant’s crime.” Implicit in this definition is a requirement that the court consider what benefits, if any, a victim received from the defendant, as such benefits would offset a loss. Here, Appellant’s agencies were ineligible for any medical assistance payments from DHS, even though some services may have been provided to otherwise eligible recipients. Finding support in federal case law, the Court concludes that, because Appellant was disqualified from receiving any medical assistance payments, there was no benefit to DHS in disbursing funds to providers who were not entitled to receive them. The Court holds the district court did not abuse its discretion in calculating DHS’s economic loss was the full $2.64 million it paid to Appellant’s agencies. State v. Currin, No. A20-0603, 2022 WL 1654376 (Minn. May 25, 2022).

JUVENILE: JUVENILE IS “FOUND TO HAVE COMMITTED A MISDEMEANOR” IN A PRIOR CASE IF THE COURT ACCEPTED THE JUVENILE’S GUILTY PLEA AND FOUND THE ALLEGATIONS WERE PROVED BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT

In 2017, Appellant, a juvenile, pleaded guilty to fifth-degree assault. The district court accepted her plea and continued the case without adjudication for six months, after which the case was dismissed. In 2021, the State filed a delinquency petition against Appellant alleging misdemeanor disorderly conduct. When committed by a juvenile, disorderly conduct is generally treated as a petty offense, unless, among other exceptions, the juvenile was “found to have committed a misdemeanor” in a prior matter. Minn. Stat. § 260B.007, subd. 16(c)(3). The district court accepted Appellant’s guilty plea to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and adjudicated her delinquent. The Court of Appeals is asked to determine the meaning of “found” in section 260B.007, subd. 16(c)(3), which is not defined in the juvenile delinquency statutes and is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation given its various uses throughout the statutes. The Court notes that the statute specifically requires that the juvenile was “found to have committed” a prior misdemeanor, not that the juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for a prior misdemeanor. In addition, the juvenile delinquency procedural rules also distinguish between a court’s finding that a juvenile committed an offense and adjudicating a juvenile delinquent.
Here, because Appellant pleaded guilty to fifth-degree assault and the district court found the charge was proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the district court properly concluded she was “found to have committed a misdemeanor” in a previous matter and did not err by adjudicating Appellant delinquent for a misdemeanor in this case. Matter of Welfare of A.J.S., No. A21-1046, 2022 WL 1751410 (Minn. Ct. App. May 31, 2022).

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