RECENT OPINION: STATE V. CARUFEL, APRIL 29, 2010

State v. Carufel interprets Minnesota Statute section 152.01, subdivision 12a, which defines “park zone” as used in the drug crime statutes.  The case is about as interesting as sorghum.  It holds that when the land surrounding a public park is an area divided into rectangular blocks bounded by city streets on all four sides, the phrase ‘the area within one city block of the park boundary’ in subdivision 12a is not ambiguous.  Since, between them, the majority and concurring opinions spend 21 pages debating the meaning of a phrase that both sides characterize as unambiguous, perhaps the Winona Daily News should not be faulted for thinking that the Court’s holding was this:  “Court upholds Winona man’s conviction; ruling clears up ambiguity over park zones

The majority opinion, authored by Justice Dietzen, holds that “the area within one city block of the park boundary” includes “the entire area of a block that is directly adjacent to the park.”  The diagram below is the one Justice Paul Anderson drew for his concurrence; as such, it includes some measurements that the majority declined to endorse.  It does, however, show the location of Mr. Carufel’s house, where the drug sale occurred. In case it is not clear what “a block directly adjacent to the park” looks like, here you go.  Justice Anderson agreed that Mr. Carufel’s residence fell within the park zone, but he disagreed about what the standing test for “an area within one city block of the park boundary” should be.  He would have jettisoned the area component of the majority’s test, and substituted a formula based on distance alone. Justice Page, meanwhile, filed a separate pox-on- both-your-houses concurrence in the result only, abstaining from both opinions.  Perhaps he considered that — given that there is no uniform measurement for a city block — “an area within one city block of the park boundary” is definition enough, and the rest ought to be left to the factfinders as new situations arise?




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