Minnesota Supreme Court Announces Two-Year Time Limit of § 590.01, subd. 4(c) Runs From Date of Court Decision
by Douglas Ankney
The Supreme Court of Minnesota announced that the two-year time limit set forth in Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(c) to file a timely postconviction petition under the retroactive new interpretation of law exception in Minn. Stat. § 591.01, subd. 4(b)(3) runs from the date the U.S. Supreme Court or a Minnesota appellate court “announces an interpretation of law that forms the basis for a claim that the interpretation is a new rule of law that applies retroactively to the postconviction petitioner’s conviction.”
In late 2019, Keith Jacob Aili, Randall Duaine Bemis, Mark Allen Dziuk, and Zachary Lourence Sheehy (“Petitioners”) filed petitions pursuant to § § 591.01, subd. 4(b)(3), asserting that their convictions for warrantless blood and urine test refusal were unconstitutional pursuant to the holdings of Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S. Ct. 2160 (2016) (holding that blood test refusal convictions are valid under the Fourth Amendment only when the requesting officer had a warrant or a warrant exception applied); State v. Thompson, 886 N.W.2d 224 (Minn. 2016) (applied Birchfield in holding that warrantless blood and urine test refusal convictions under the state’s test refusal statue were unconstitutional); State v. Trajan, 886 N.W.2d 216 (Minn. 2016) (same as Thompson). (The Court referred to the rule of law distilled from those three cases as the “Birchfield rule.”)
On August 22, 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that Birchfield announced a new rule that applied retroactively. Johnson v. State, 916 N.W.2d 674 (Minn. 2018).
Between December 2019 and February 2020, the district courts summarily denied all the Petitioners’ petitions as untimely. The courts ruled that Petitioners had two years from the date the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Thompson and Trahan, i.e., October 12, 2016, when the Supreme Court first applied the Birchfield rule in Minnesota, not from the date of Johnson as the Petitioners argued.
In a consolidated appeal, the court of appeals (“COA”) reversed. The COA concluded that its decision in Edwards v. State, 950 N.W.2d 309 (Minn. App. 2020) controlled. Edwards held that the two-year time limit of § 590.01, subd. 4(c) for postconviction claims invoking the exception for a new interpretation of law based on the Birchfield rule began to run on August 22, 2018, when the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Johnson. Since the Petitioners submitted their petitions in 2019, those petitions were timely, according to the COA. The Minnesota Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review.
The Court observed that the principal time limit for postconviction petitions filed pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 590.01-590.11 is two years after the later of “the entry of judgment of conviction or sentence if no direct appeal is filed” or “an appellate court’s disposition of petitioner’s direct appeal.” § 590.01, subd. 4(a).
But there are exceptions to this principal time limit. See § 590.01, subd. 4(b). If the petitioner asserts a new interpretation of federal or state constitutional or statutory law by either the U.S. Supreme Court or a Minnesota appellate court and the petitioner establishes that this interpretation is retroactively applicable to the petitioner’s case, a district court may hear the petition even if it was filed later than the principal two-year time limit. § 590.01, subd. 4(b)(3). But “[a]ny petition invoking an exception provided in [subdivision 4(b)] must be filed within two years of the date the claim arises.” § 590.01, subd. 4(c). The two-year time limit of subdivision (4)(c) applies to all of the exceptions of subsection (4)(b). Sanchez v. State, 816 N.W.2d 550 (Minn. 2012). The time limit begins to run when a petitioner objectively “knew or should have known” that his claim under a subdivision 4(b) exception arose. Id.
The Court noted that it has not “directly addressed the issue of when a petitioner knows or should know that a subdivision 4(b)(3) ‘claim arises,’ thus triggering the 2-year time limit.”
Importantly, the two-year time limit of subdivision 4(c) runs from “the date the claim arises.” Sanchez. The Court explained that the date a petitioner knows or should have known of the claim is not the date he knew or should have known he would prevail on the claim, but it is the date he knew or should have known the information necessary to assert the claim. Sanchez.
In Sanchez, the petitioner filed his petition after the two-year principal time limit had run. He brought his claim under the “in the interests of justice” exception of § 590.01, subd. 4(b)(5). He alleged ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer failed to file his appeal. The Sanchez Court held that the date he knew or should have known of his claim was the date he learned the appeal had not been filed. However, that did not mean that at the time he learned the appeal was not filed that he also had to know he would actually prevail on his claim. See id.
In the instant case, both Thompson and Trahan were decided on October 12, 2016. On that date, Petitioners knew or should have known the information necessary to assert their claims, according to the Court. They did not have to know at that time that they would prevail on their claim, i.e., that the Birchfield rule would subsequently be applied retroactively by a state appellate court. However, they had sufficient information on October 12, 2016, to know that they had a claim. Thus, applying the § 590.01, subd. 4(c) two-year time limit from the date of the decisions in Thomson and Trahan, Petitioners’ claims brought in 2019 pursuant to the exception of § 590.01, subd. 4(b)(3) for retroactive new interpretation of the law are time barred because they were not brought within the two-year limitations period, the Court ruled.
Accordingly, the Court reversed the COA’s decision. See: Aili v. State, 963 N.W.2d 442 (Minn. 2021).
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