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Phoenix City Prosecutor's Office v. Nyquist

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

September 14, 2017

PHOENIX CITY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, Petitioner/Appellee,
v.
HONORABLE MONYETTE NYQUIST, Respondent Judge/Appellee, JAMIE HERNANDEZ-ALEJANDRO, Real Party in Interest/Appellant.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. LC2015-000467-001 The Honorable Joan M. Sinclair, Judge

          Michael Dew Counsel for Real Party in Interest/Appellant

          Amy B. Offenberg Counsel for Petitioner/Appellee

          Presiding Judge Randall M. Howe delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Peter B. Swann and Judge Patricia A. Orozco [1] joined.

          OPINION

          HOWE, Judge

         ¶1 This case presents two questions concerning A.R.S. § 28-672, which creates the class 3 misdemeanor offense of causing a person serious physical injury by committing certain traffic violations. First, does the offense require proof of a culpable mental state? Second, is a person charged with committing that offense entitled to a jury trial? We hold that the offense is a strict liability offense that does not require proof of any culpable mental state. We also hold that a person is not entitled to a jury trial on a charged violation of the statute because the offense has no common law antecedent and is not a sufficiently serious offense to warrant a jury trial.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2 One night in November 2013, Jamie Hernandez-Alejandro stopped at a stop sign and then proceeded to make a left-hand turn through the intersection. As he crossed the intersection, his car hit a scooter, seriously injuring its driver and passenger. The City of Phoenix charged Hernandez-Alejandro with violating A.R.S. § 28-672(A)(5). Section 28-672(A)(5) states that a person commits the offense of causing serious physical injury or death by a moving violation if the person fails to yield to vehicles that are within an intersection and that act causes serious physical injury or death to another person.

         ¶3 Before the bench trial, Hernandez-Alejandro moved to require the State to prove that he acted "knowingly" under the statute and moved for a jury trial because the offense had a common law antecedent entitling him to one. The municipal court granted the motions and the State sought special action review from the superior court. The superior court reversed the municipal court's orders and held that A.R.S. § 28-672 is a strict liability offense and that an alleged violation of the statute did not warrant a jury trial. Hernandez-Alejandro timely appealed.[2]

         DISCUSSION

         1. A.R.S. § 28-672 is a Strict Liability Offense

         ¶4 Hernandez-Alejandro argues that the superior court erred by finding that A.R.S. § 28-672 is a strict liability offense. We review the superior court's interpretation of statutes de novo. See State v. Slayton, 214 Ariz. 511, 513 ¶ 6, 154 P.3d 1057, 1059 (App. 2007). The superior court did not err because violating A.R.S. § 28-672(A)(5) does not necessarily involve a culpable mental state, as manifested by its clear legislative intent.

         ¶5 A person commits the offense of causing serious physical injury or death by a moving violation if the person violates A.R.S. § 28-773, among other statutes, and the violation results in an accident causing serious physical injury or death to another person. A.R.S. § 28-672(A)(5). Section 28-773 states that "[t]he driver of a vehicle shall stop in obedience to a stop sign . . . and then proceed with caution yielding to vehicles that are not required to stop and that are within the intersection or are approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard."

         ¶6 Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-202(B) - which applies to Title 28 offenses, see A.R.S. § 13-102(D) -states that "[i]f a statute defining an offense does not expressly prescribe a culpable mental state that is sufficient for commission of the offense, no culpable mental state is required . . . and the offense is one of strict liability unless the proscribed conduct necessarily involves a culpable mental state." The statute here, A.R.S. § 28-672, does not expressly prescribe a culpable mental state. The statute describes acts or results that violate the statute. Section 28-672 lacks any reference to the person's state of mind, such as "intentionally, " "knowingly, " "recklessly, " or "negligently." Moreover, the statute at issue does not necessarily involve a culpable mental state. Merely proceeding without caution and failing to yield to other vehicles ...


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