from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CR
2012-124514-001 The Honorable Erin Otis, Judge
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Joseph T.
Maziarz Counsel for Appellee
Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, Phoenix By
Carlos Daniel Carrion Counsel for Appellant
Patricia A. Orozco delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Presiding Judge Michael J. Brown and Judge Maria Elena
Jason Luke Snee appeals his convictions and resulting
sentences. He argues he should be granted a new trial because
the court admitted into evidence his confession to law
enforcement officials without first determining whether the
confession was voluntary. For the following reasons, we
The State charged Snee with nine felonies and two
misdemeanors. A jury returned not-guilty verdicts on two
counts and guilty verdicts on four counts, but could not
reach a decision on the five remaining counts. Snee was
subsequently sentenced to prison. We have jurisdiction over
this timely appeal pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes
(A.R.S.) section 12-120.21(A).
Before trial, Snee filed a motion to suppress his confession,
but later withdrew it. Nevertheless, on appeal he argues that
"A.R.S. § 13-3988(A) required the court to sua
sponte conduct a voluntariness hearing" because the
evidence indicated that the confession was induced by an
We review de novo issues of statutory interpretation and
constitutional law. State v. Wein, 242 Ariz. 372,
374, ¶ 7 (App. 2017). "When interpreting a statute,
we look to the plain language of the statute as the best
indicator of the drafter's intent." State v.
Pledger, 236 Ariz. 469, 471, ¶ 8 (App. 2015).
Snee asserts that A.R.S. § 13-3988(A) requires trial
courts to conduct voluntariness hearings "whenever the
State offers a defendant's confession as evidence,
even if one is not requested by the defense."
(Emphasis added.) We disagree.
Section 13-3988(A) states that "[b]efore [a] confession
is received in evidence, the trial judge shall, out of the
presence of the jury, determine any issue as to
voluntariness." An "issue, " however, is
defined as "a point, matter, or question to be disputed
or decided." Webster's New Universal Unabridged
Dictionary 975 (2d ed. 1983); see also American
Heritage Dictionary 931 (5th ed. 2011) (defining an
"issue" as "[a] point or matter of discussion,
debate, or dispute"). Therefore, the statute only
requires courts to determine whether a confession was
involuntary when voluntariness is disputed by the defense,
and not, as Snee contends, in every case in which the State
seeks to introduce a confession.
Our interpretation is consistent with Arizona Rule of
Criminal Procedure 16.1, which governs pretrial motions and
requires parties "to make all motions no later than 20
days before trial . . . ." See also State v.
Ferguson,119 Ariz. 200, 201 (1978) ("Inasmuch as
appellant had not made a motion to suppress prior to the
trial, and did not object to the questions at trial, she
waived her right to a voluntariness hearing." (citing
Rule 16.1(c))). We do not suggest that courts are prohibited
from, sua sponte, conducting voluntariness hearings. Cf
Fitzgerald v. Myers,243 Ariz. 84, 92-93, ¶ 27
(2017) ("[N]either the statute nor the rule . . .
establishes a requirement for, or right to, a convicted
defendant's competency in capital PCR proceedings. In the
sound exercise of its inherent authority and discretion,
however, a trial court may order a competency evaluation when
helpful or necessary . . . ."); State v.
Alvarado,121 Ariz. 485, 488 (1979) (recognizing that
although parties must move ...