Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Barela

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

September 26, 2018

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES EDWARD BARELA, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OTERO COUNTY James Waylon Counts, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Charles J. Gutierrez, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

          Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Will O'Connell, Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Appellant

          OPINION

          GALLEGOS, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant James Edward Barela appeals his conviction for felony battery against a household member, NMSA 1978, Section 30-3-17(A) (2008), asserting that his sentence was improperly enhanced, pursuant to the habitual offender enhancement statute, NMSA 1978, Section 31-18-17(A) (2003). Defendant also argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds and in refusing to admit extrinsic impeachment evidence at trial. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         {¶2} Following a physical altercation between Defendant and Ms. Rebecka Gray (Victim), the mother of his son, the State indicted Defendant for one count of child abuse, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of battery against a household member. Immediately prior to trial, Defendant pleaded no contest to a count of felony battery against a household member. Following trial, a jury convicted Defendant of false imprisonment but acquitted him of the child abuse count. The district court sentenced him to one and a half years incarceration for each count. Further, based on a prior felony conviction, the district court imposed a one-year habitual offender enhancement for each count, resulting in a five-year sentence. Defendant then appealed to this Court.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Habitual Offender Enhancement

         {¶3} Defendant, a three-time domestic violence offender, pleaded no contest to, and was convicted of, felony battery against a household member, contrary to Section 30-3-17(A), which provides, "[w]hoever commits three offenses of battery against a household member . . . when the household member is a spouse, a former spouse, a co-parent of a child or a person with whom the offender has had a continuing personal relationship is guilty of a fourth degree felony." Based on a prior felony conviction for false imprisonment, Defendant's sentence was subsequently enhanced by one year, pursuant to Section 31-18-17(A), which provides that a person convicted of a noncapital felony "who has incurred one prior felony conviction ... is a habitual offender and his basic sentence shall be increased by one year." Defendant argues that under the reasoning set forth in State v. Anaya, 1997-NMSC-010, 123 KM. 14, 933 P.2d 223, the district court erred in applying the habitual offender enhancement to his conviction because the felony battery against a household member statute is self-enhancing. To resolve this issue, we must engage in statutory interpretation.

         {¶4} Statutory interpretation is a matter of law that is reviewed de novo. State v. Rapchack, 2011-NMCA-116, ¶ 8, 150 N.M. 716, 265 P.3d 1289. Our goal when interpreting statutes is to give effect to the intent of the Legislature by applying the plain meaning of the words in the statute unless doing so would lead to an absurd or unreasonable result. Id.

         {¶5} We thus begin with the plain meaning of the statutes at issue. Section 30-3-17(A) provides that a defendant who commits three offenses of battery against a specific subset of household members "is guilty of a fourth degree felony." Section 31-18-17(A) provides for a one-year enhanced sentence when a person with one prior felony conviction is subsequently convicted of a noncapital felony. Based on the language in these statutes, there does not appear to be any basis for concluding that the district court erred in enhancing Defendant's fourth-degree felony battery on a household member conviction by one year based on his prior felony conviction for false imprisonment.

         {¶6} As stated above, however, Defendant argues that the district court's imposition of the habitual offender enhancement was improper under Anaya. In Anaya, our Supreme Court addressed whether a felony driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction was subject to the habitual offender enhancement. 1997-NMSC-010, ¶¶ 26-36. The Court ultimately concluded that it was not, reasoning that the "insurmountable ambiguity" as to whether the Legislature intended for the habitual offender enhancement to apply to fourth-time or more DWI offenders required application of the rule of lenity. Id. ¶¶ 32, 35.

         {¶7} Anaya was context-specific and much of our Supreme Court's analysis with respect to "insurmountable ambiguity" was based on the language of the DWI statute at issue in that case, NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-102(G) (1994). We are not convinced that the DWI statute's ambiguity should be automatically imported to the domestic violence statute at issue here. Instead, we must construe Section 30-3-17(A) on its own terms. And in so doing, we do not see the same sort of ambiguity that was present in Anaya that would lead us to apply the rule of lenity.

         {¶8} Of particular note, in State v. Begay, our Supreme Court clarified that "[its] holding in Anaya rested not on a concern that the Legislature did not intend to create two enhancements for the same crime, but rather a concern that the Legislature did not intend to have a fourth or subsequent DWI offense considered a felony for purposes of the habitual offender statute." 2001-NMSC-002, ¶ 9, 130 N.M. 61, 17 -P.3d 434. Our Supreme Court also stressed its continued belief "that the Legislature did not intend to punish fourth-time or more DWI offenders in the same manner as other fourth-degree felons." Id. ¶ 10 (alteration, internal quotation marks, and citation omitted). The question for us, then, is whether, given the plain language of Section 30-3-17(A) and Section 31-18-17(A), there is a countervailing basis for concluding that the Legislature did not intend to punish someone who repeatedly (three times) battered an intimate household member in the same manner as other fourth-degree felons. For the following reasons, we answer the question in the negative.

         {¶9} First, our Supreme Court's analysis in Anaya largely turned on the fact that both the DWI statute, which falls within the Motor Vehicle Code and has its own separate, intricate sentencing scheme, see § 66-8-102(E)-(L), and the habitual offender statute were silent as to the applicability of the habitual offender enhancement on felony DWI offenses. See Anaya, 1997-NMSC-010, ¶ 31 ("The [L]egislature's silence in both Section 31-18-17 and Section 66-8-102(G), is the strongest evidence that the [L]egislature did not intend the habitual offender sentences in Section 31-18-17 to apply to felony DWI."). In contrast, the felony battery against a household member statute at issue in this case falls within the Criminal Code. And it is clear that the habitual offender statute is specifically applicable to persons convicted of noncapital felony offenses within the Criminal Code. See § 31-18-17(A) (indicating that the habitual offender enhancement applies to "[a] person convicted of a noncapital felony in this state whether within the Criminal Code ... or the Controlled Substances Act... or not[.]"). Therefore, not only are we not dealing with legislative silence, as the Court was in Anaya, but we are instead dealing with express statutory language indicating a legislative intent that the habitual offender enhancement apply to felonies under the Criminal Code.

         {¶10} Second, the Court in Anaya concluded that there was ambiguity with respect to whether the Legislature intended to punish fourth-time or more DWI offenders in the same manner as other fourth-degree felons, based in part on the fact that (1) the DWI offenses were non-violent offenses, and (2) Section 66-8-102(G) used the word "jail" instead of "prison." Anaya,1997-NMSC-010, ¶¶ 29, 33, 34. According to Anaya, these facts evinced-at least somewhat-that the Legislature intended to treat a DWI felon differently than a typical felon. Id. ΒΆ 33. We have ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.