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Minn. Supreme Court Announces Rule for Analyzing Out-of-State Convictions for Public Safety Registry Requirement Purposes

Edward Martin was convicted of sexual battery under California Penal Code § 243.4(a) in 1992. He was required to register for life under Cal. Penal Code § 290(a)(2)(A). Martin moved to Minnesota in 2000, went to prison, and was released in 2005 after being notified of his requirement to register, which he disputed.

When he was homeless in 2016, he was told he had to check in weekly to the local police department to comply with his registration requirement. He failed to do so, was later arrested, and convicted at a bench trial of failing to register.

Martin was convicted under Minn. Stat. § 243.166, subd. 6(d)(1). On appeal, the State conceded this was in error because 6(d)(1) is a statute that requires two priors to trigger lifetime registration. The State then cited subd. 6(d)(3), which requires lifetime registration for persons convicted under other states’ statutes that are “similar to” any one of several Minnesota criminal sexual conduct statutes. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction, stating his California offense was “sufficiently similar to Minnesota’s fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct statute” under § 609.345, subd. 1(c).

On appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the State acknowledged it erred because § 243.166, sudb. 6(d)(3) only applies to people whose convictions occurred after August 1, 2000. The State instead relied on subd. 6(e), which requires offenders with out-of-state convictions to register in Minnesota for the length required by their state of conviction. This statute requires a person to register when “the person was convicted ... in another state for an offense that would be a violation of law described in paragraph (a) if committed in this state.”

The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed that the State was finally using the proper statute and stated that the phrase “would be a violation of law” countermands the ruling of the Court of Appeals’ analysis using the “similar to” standard from subd. 6(d)(3).

In determining whether an out-of-state conviction would be a violation of Minnesota law under § 243.166, subd. 1b(b)(1), the Court announced: “We will compare the elements of the out-of-state offense to the elements of the Minnesota offense. An out-of-state conviction would be a violation of a Minnesota offense requiring registration if proving the elements of the out-of-state offense would necessarily prove a violation of that Minnesota law. But if the elements of the out-of-state offense could be proven without proving a violation of Minnesota law, then the out-of-state conviction would not be a violation of a Minnesota offense requiring registration.”

In the present case, subd. 6(e) requires the Court to compare the elements of the offense as they were listed in the California statute in effect in 1992 with the version of the Minnesota statute that was in effect at the same time, the Court explained.

The Court said both statutes criminalize conduct that includes: (1) the “touching of similarly defined intimate parts,” (2) the nonconsensual nature of the touching, and (3) the sexual purpose of the touching. The comparison hinged on whether someone who “unlawfully restrained” a victim in California necessarily must have used the “force or coercion” required under the Minnesota law.

“Force” is defined in Minnesota Stat. § 609.341, subd. (11), to include the threat, attempt, or infliction of bodily harm “or commission or threat of any other crime” against the complainant. “Coercion” is defined in subd. 14 to include words that create fear of bodily harm, “confinement, or superior size or strength” that causes “complainant to submit to sexual ... contact.”

In People v. Arnold, 6 Cal. App. 4th 18 (1992), the defendant was convicted for pulling the victim toward him “by the buttocks,” which was not restraint and did not cause bodily harm. Neither did this require superior size or strength. This conviction did not require even the threat of bodily harm. The Court cited two more similar California cases to illustrate that “unlawful restraint” under California’s statute had been so broadly defined by California courts as to not require the “force or coercion” necessary for conviction in Minnesota.

Thus, the Court held that Martin’s 1992 California conviction for sexual battery was insufficient to trigger registration in Minnesota because it did not match the Minnesota statute element for element.

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State v. Martin



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