Special Action Proceeding Pima County Cause No. CR20160035001
Dean Brault, Pima County Legal Defender By Kristine Alger, Assistant Legal Defender, Tucson Counsel for Petitioner
Barbara LaWall, Pima County Attorney By Nicolette Kneup, Deputy County Attorney, Tucson Counsel for Real Party in Interest
Presiding Judge Vásquez authored the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Miller and Judge Staring concurred.
VÁSQUEZ, Presiding Judge:
¶1 In this special action, fifteen-year-old Emily McGuire contends the respondent judge erred by denying her motion to dismiss the underlying armed robbery prosecution and to transfer the matter to the juvenile court. She contends that, because a simulated weapon was used during the alleged robbery, it is not a violent offense and she is not, therefore, subject to mandatory prosecution as an adult pursuant to article IV, pt. 2, § 22 of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 13-501 (A). Although we accept jurisdiction of this special action, we deny relief because the respondent did not abuse his discretion in concluding the plain language of § 13-501 and A.R.S. § 13-1904, the armed robbery statute, require that McGuire be prosecuted as an adult.
Factual and Procedural Background
¶2 The following facts are either undisputed or are established by the record before us, including the grand jury testimony of a sheriffs detective. A male with a hood over his head and his face covered approached the victim, who was in her car in the parking lot of a Tucson restaurant, pointed a gun at her, and demanded that she give him her purse. The victim complied, and the perpetrator ran from the scene with another person, whose head and face were also covered. Pima County Sheriffs Deputies apprehended fourteen-year-old J.M. He initially stated his sister, McGuire, was the robber and he had been the lookout, but he later admitted he had approached the victim with a toy gun and demanded her purse. Sheriffs deputies then found McGuire, who told them that she had been the lookout and that J.M. had robbed the victim. J.M. also told deputies they had left the purse in the yard of a house. Deputies found the purse and the toy gun the next day in a yard near the area where they had found J.M. and McGuire.
¶3 A sheriffs deputy initially took J.M. and McGuire to the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center. Because of McGuire's age and the type of offense involved, however, the deputy then transported her to the Pima County Adult Detention Center. About two weeks later, in early 2016, McGuire was charged by indictment with armed robbery and aggravated robbery. She filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, to Transfer to Juvenile Court, arguing she was not subject to mandatory prosecution as an adult. She maintained that because the "plain language" of § 13-501 "reveals two reasonably plausible interpretations, it is ambiguous." She contended that based on all subsections of the statute, read together, as well as the intent behind article IV, pt. 2, § 22 of the Arizona Constitution, a juvenile who commits armed robbery with a simulated weapon, a toy gun in this case, has not committed a violent offense and is not subject to mandatory prosecution as an adult.
¶4 The respondent judge disagreed with McGuire. Based on the language of § 13-501 and the armed robbery statute, § 13-1904, he concluded McGuire must be prosecuted as an adult and denied her motion. This special action followed.
¶5 The order McGuire challenges is interlocutory in nature and may not be appealed directly. See State v. Lee, 236 Ariz. 377, ¶ 9, 340 P.3d 1085, 1088-89 (App. 2014). In addition, the issues raised involve pure questions of law regarding the interpretation and application of statutes and an amendment to our constitution. Id. And, the question of whether a juvenile who is fifteen years of age or older and has been charged with armed robbery involving the use of a simulated weapon must be charged as an adult is a question of first impression and statewide importance. State v. Bernini, 230 Ariz. 223, ¶ 5, 282 P.3d 424, 426 (App. 2012). For these reasons, in the exercise of our discretion, we accept jurisdiction of this special action.
¶6 We may grant special-action relief only when a respondent judge has, inter alia, abused his discretion. See Ariz. R. P. Spec. Actions 3(c). An abuse of discretion includes an error in interpreting or applying the law. Sierra Tucson, Inc. v. Lee, 230 Ariz. 255, ¶ 22, 282 P.3d 1275, 1281 (App. 2012). The interpretation and application of statutes and the constitution are questions of law, which we review de novo. See Lee, 236 Ariz. 377, ¶ 9, 340 P.3d at 1089 (statutes); Univ. Med. ...