Boutin v. LaFleur

Decision Date22 April 1999
Docket NumberNo. C1-97-1490,C1-97-1490
Citation591 N.W.2d 711
PartiesTimothy BOUTIN, petitioner, Appellant, v. Gothriel LaFLEUR, Commissioner of Corrections, et al., Respondents.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Minn.Stat. § 243.166 (1998) is not ambiguous and its plain meaning requires that an offender must register under the statute when either convicted of an enumerated predatory offense or charged with an enumerated predatory offense but convicted only of "another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances."

2. The presumption of innocence only applies to criminal statutes and therefore is not implicated by Minn.Stat. § 243.166 (1998), which is a civil, regulatory statute.

3. An offender's constitutional right to substantive and procedural due process is not violated under Minn.Stat. § 243.166 (1998) when the offender is convicted of "another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances" that provided probable cause for a charged "enumerated predatory offense" for which there was no conviction, and the registration information may only be disclosed to the victim, witnesses to the offense, and to law enforcement.

Bradford Colbert, Attorney at Law, St. Paul, for appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Minnesota Attorney General, St. Paul, Sara DeSanto, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, for respondent.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.



Timothy Boutin was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1 (1998), one count of assault in the third degree in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.223 (1998), and one count of misdemeanor assault in the fifth degree in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.224, subd. 1(1) and (2) (1998) as the result of an incident involving his girlfriend. Boutin pleaded guilty to third-degree assault. Prior to his release from confinement, Boutin was informed that he would be required to register under Minn.Stat. § 243.166 (1998) as a predatory offender. Boutin now challenges the constitutionality of requiring him to register under the statute.

On November 13, 1994, Boutin was living in an apartment in Isanti County with his girlfriend, Denise Rathman. At approximately 2:30 a.m., Rathman returned home from an evening out. Unknown to Rathman, Boutin was home waiting up for her and confronted her, accusing her of having sexual relations with another man. An argument ensued and Boutin pushed Rathman into a wall, causing a serious injury to the back of her head that required several stitches.

A short while later, according to Rathman, Boutin forced her to have sexual intercourse with him. A few hours later, at approximately 9 a.m., Rathman alleged that Boutin again had nonconsensual sexual intercourse with her. During a subsequent interview, Boutin admitted to police that he had sexual intercourse with Rathman, stating that "[s]he said she didn't want to and I still did it I guess." Boutin claimed that Rathman frequently said she did not want to have sexual intercourse but that she often cooperated as she did on this occasion. Boutin also told police that he felt that he was guilty only of "abuse," and not of "rape."

Prior to trial, Rathman recanted the portion of her story in which she said that Boutin forced her to have sex with him. Boutin then agreed to plead guilty to the charge of third-degree assault and to an upward durational departure from the presumptive sentence of 25 months to 40 months. During his guilty plea, Boutin agreed that there were two aggravating circumstances which allowed for an upward durational departure in sentencing: (1) his past history of domestic abuse of Rathman; and (2) having sexual intercourse with Rathman after assaulting her and inflicting substantial bodily harm. Boutin was sentenced to 40 months confinement and the remaining charges were dismissed. 1

Prior to Boutin's release from confinement, his case manager informed him that he would have to register as a predatory offender as required by section 243.166. Boutin registered as instructed and then brought this action against the Commissioner of Corrections seeking a declaration that the registration requirement violated his constitutional rights and asking the court to permanently enjoin the Commissioner from requiring his registration in the future. Following a hearing on cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted the Commissioner's motion. The court of appeals affirmed, and we granted Boutin's petition for further review to determine whether the registration requirements of Minn.Stat. § 243.166 violate Boutin's constitutional rights. We affirm.


On appeal from summary judgment, we review the record to determine if there are genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court erred in its application of the law. See Offerdahl v. University of Minn. Hosps. & Clinics, 426 N.W.2d 425, 427 (Minn.1988). In this case the material facts are not in dispute and both Boutin and the Commissioner contend that they are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law.

The interpretation of statutes is a question of law which we review de novo. In re Blilie, 494 N.W.2d 877, 881 (Minn.1993) (citation omitted). Accordingly, we are not bound by a lower court's interpretation of statutes. See id. Because Minnesota statutes are presumed constitutional, we exercise our power to declare a statute unconstitutional with extreme caution and only when absolutely necessary. See In re Haggerty, 448 N.W.2d 363, 364 (Minn.1989) (citing City of Richfield v. Local No. 1215, 276 N.W.2d 42, 45 (Minn.1979)). Therefore, a party challenging a statute has the "very heavy burden of demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that the statute is unconstitutional." State v. Merrill, 450 N.W.2d 318, 321 (Minn.1990).

On appeal to this court, Boutin argues: (1) that requiring him to register despite the fact that he was not convicted of a "sex offense" is, in his words, "absurd and unreasonable"; (2) that by requiring his registration under section 243.166, the Commissioner has violated Boutin's right to substantive due process by infringing on his presumption of innocence; and (3) that by requiring his registration under section 243.166, the Commissioner has violated Boutin's right to procedural due process because he did not have an opportunity to confront the charges against him.


We begin first with a description of the registration requirements of section 243.166, which provides:

A person shall register under this section if:

(1) the person was charged with or petitioned for a felony violation of or attempt to violate any of the following, and convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for that offense or of another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances: * * *

(iii) criminal sexual conduct under section 609.342; 609.343; 609.344; or 609.345 * * *.

Minn.Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1(a) (1998).

Once an offender is charged with and convicted of a crime that satisfies these elements the offender must be notified of his duty to register. See Minn.Stat. § 243.166, subd. 2 (1998). Such notice can be accomplished in one of two ways. First, the sentencing court can "tell the person of the duty to register" and have that person "read and sign a form stating that the duty of the person to register * * * has been explained." Id. Or, if the court fails to so instruct, "the assigned corrections agent shall notify the person of the requirements of [the registration statute]." Id. 2

Once instructed regarding the duty to register, the offender must comply with three requirements. First, the offender must submit a signed registration form 3 which contains "information required by the bureau of criminal apprehension," along with "a fingerprint card, and photograph of the person taken at the time of the person's release from incarceration or, if the person was not incarcerated, at the time the person initially registered under this section." Minn.Stat. § 243.166, subd. 4(a) (1998). Second, the offender must sign and return an annual address verification form. See Minn.Stat. § 243.166, subd. 4(c)(1) (1998). Finally, the offender must notify law enforcement officials in writing at least five days prior to any change in address. See Minn.Stat. § 243.166, subd. 3(b) (1998).


We turn next to Boutin's argument that he should not be forced to register because the provisions of section 243.166 do not require that he register. Boutin contends that section 243.166 does not require him to register because he was not convicted of one of the enumerated felony offenses listed in subd. 1(a)(1) of section 243.166.

The object of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate legislative intent. See Minn.Stat. § 645.16 (1998). If statutory language is plain and unambiguous, the court must look only to the plain meaning of the statutory language. See Minn.Stat. § 645.16; Wegener v. Comm'r of Revenue, 505 N.W.2d 612, 617 (Minn.1993) (concluding that a court may look beyond plain language only if the literal meaning of a statute leads to an absurd result that utterly departs from legislative purpose).

Subdivision 1(a)(1) of section 243.166 states that a person shall register if the person was charged with "a felony violation of or attempt to violate any" enumerated felony offense, and was "convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for that offense or another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances." Minn.Stat. § 243.166, subd. 1(a)(1). Upon its enactment in 1991, this statute only required that persons convicted of certain enumerated felony offenses register upon release from prison. See Act of June 1, 1991, ch. 285, §§ 3 and 13(a), 1991 Minn. Laws 1325, 1329. In 1993 the legislature amended the statute to require that a person register if convicted of an enumerated felony or "another offense arising out of the same set of circumstances." See Act of May...

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