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State v. Morf

Supreme Court of Arizona

April 3, 1956

STATE of Arizona, Plaintiff,
v.
Paul Andrew MORF, Defendant.

[80 Ariz. 221] Robert Morrison, Atty. Gen., Wm. P. Mahoney, Jr., County Atty., and Thomas Tang, Deputy County Atty., Phoenix, for the State.

James S. Riggs, Lewis, Roca, Scoville & Beauchamp and Joseph E. McGarry, Phoenix, for defendant.

UDALL, Justice.

After a preliminary hearing before a magistrate, defendant Paul Andrew Morf was held to answer to the superior court upon a felony charge, to wit: manslaughter. Thereafter the county attorney of Maricopa County, by an information, formally charged defendant with the crime of involuntary manslaughter, a felony, under section 43-2904, A.C.A.1939. The homicide allegedly arose out of defendant's wilful, reckless and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. In response to a bill of particulars the State set forth that defendant's specific acts of negligence were (1) that he 'failed to heed and obey an electric traffic control signal' and (2) that he 'exceeded the legal speed limit * * *'. Defendant also filed a motion to quash the [80 Ariz. 222] information, which motion was orally argued, but before a ruling thereon the court considered there was a question of law 'so important and doubtful as to require the decision of the appellate court'. Under the provisions of Rule 346, Rules Crim.Proc.1956, and with the consent of the defendant, the trial court stayed further proceedings and has now certified to us the following narrow question for decision, viz.:

'Does the enactment of Chapter 3, Section 53, Laws of Arizona, 1950 (1st. Sp.Sess.), Section 66-155, Arizona Code, as amended, (negligent homicide) operate as a repeal in part of Section 43-2904, Arizona Code 1939,

Page 843

insofar as that section makes the operation of a motor vehicle without due caution and circumspection proximately causing death, involuntary manslaughter, a felony?'

The query has substance and is a proper one for certification under our rules. Respectable authority from other jurisdictions divides on the question. It is a matter of first impression with us.

Section 43-2904, A.C.A.1939 (now appearing as Secs. 13-455 and 13-456, A.R.S.1956), our manslaughter statute, violation of which is a felony, reads as follows:

'Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is of two kinds: * * * involuntary, in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to a felony, or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection.' (Emphasis supplied.)

Chapter 3, Section 53, Laws 1950, 1st S.S. (now appearing as Sec. 28-691, A.R.S.1956), is our misdemeanor negligent homicide statute, viz.:

'When the death of any person ensues within one year as a proximate result of injury received by the driving of any vehicle in reckless disregard of the safety of others, the person so operating such vehicle shall be guilty of negligent homicide.' (Emphasis supplied.)

Obviously a statute pertaining only to death by operation of motor vehicles does not repeal in its entirety a general statute relating to homicides committed by other means. The narrow issue is whether the misdemeanor statute impliedly repeals the application of the felony statute, supra, to instances of homicide wherein the instrumentality of death is a motor vehicle operated 'without due caution and circumspection.' Repeal of any other criminal situation arising under the manslaughter statute is not here drawn in question. Cf. State v. Cantrell, 64 Wyo. 132, 186 P.2d 539; State v. Ponce, 59 Ariz. 158, 124 P.2d 543.

The rule is well settled in Arizona that repeals by implication are not favored[80 Ariz. 223] and will not be indulged in if there is any other reasonable construction. Arizona Corp. Comm'n v. Catalina Foothills Estates, 78 Ariz. 245, 278 P.2d 427, 428; 82 C.J.S., Statutes, § 288. However, it is equally well established that if upon examination of the statutes a repugnancy or inconsistency between the provisions of the earlier and the later law is found, i. e. if, even granting the absence of express legislative intent to repeal, it appears the legislature could not have intended the two statutes to be contemporaneously operative, then it will be implied the legislature must have intended to repeal the earlier enactment by the later law. 82 C.J.S., Statutes, § 286 et seq. The fundamental test in all cases is of course the intent of the legislature.

In the case of Olson v. State, 36 Ariz. 294, 285 P. 282, we held that the legislature by enactment of the 1927 Highway Code containing a provision making failure to stop in case of accident a misdemeanor had impliedly repealed the former statutory felony of leaving the scene of an accident. The analogy of the Olson case to the case at bar is close. In the instant case the legislature has enacted a comprehensive law covering the field relative to the use of the highways by motor vehicles. If within this law it has provided criminal sanction for an act punishable previously under a general penal statute and it appears that the elements of the crimes are alike-i. e. the offenses are substantially the same and not merely cumulative or auxiliary-then the reasonable conclusion is that the legislative intent was that the last and specific expression on the subject shall be the law, and the earlier statute shall no longer be applicable. 82 C.J.S. Statutes, § 303.

With these fundamentals in mind, we first examine these two laws as hitherto applied in this State as well as in other jurisdictions. While we have had no occasion to specifically define-as have some other states-the phrase 'without due caution and ...


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