State v Ainsworth

Ainsworth appealed his convictions and sentences for three violations of Utah Code 58-37-8(2)(g)-(h) arguing the statute violated the Utah Constitution’s uniform operation provision. The panel vacated his convictions and remanded for entry of a new judgment for lesser offenses and resentencing. The panel held that the  distinction between those with a prescription for the drugs in their system and those without a prescription in 8(2)(g)-(h) and Utah code 41-6a-503(2)(a) is reasonable as users of drugs with a prescription r subject to controls illicit users are not and deterring illegal drug use is legitimate. The panel held that the operation of 8(2)(h)(1) violated the constitution as it allowed grater punishment for those with lesser amounts of illegal drugs in their system and there is no rational basis for this greater punishment and the appropriate remedy is to strike the designation of a 8(h)(1) violation as a second degree felony which will not render 8(2)(h)(1) inoperable as third degree felony status is the default designation for felonies. The panel thus vacated the second degree felony convictions and remanded for entry of judgment for three third degree felonies. The panel held there was no error in imposing consecutive sentences as the district court considered the appropriate factors and was not barred from imposing consecutive sentences.

State v McCallie

McCallie appealed his aggravated assault conviction arguing prosecutorial misconduct insufficient evidence. The panel affirmed. It held that the prosecutor impermissibly commented on McCallie’s comments during a police interview because statements about the interrogation are functionally equivalent to being silent. The panel held the comment was harmless because the jury would not have assumed the comment was about silence during questioning, there was overwhelming evidence McCallie’s story changed over time such as recorded phone conversations while McCallie was in jail and his own trial testimony was enough to support the assault conviction, the comment was isolated and the jury was instructed to not draw any inference from the functional silence. As to sufficiency, the panel held Utah follows the waiver rule in that defense presentation of evidence after a denied motion for directed verdict waives the right to limit review to the State’s case in chief and the evidence, including McCallie’s testimony he pointed a gun at the victim and victim’s testimony that McCallie pointed a gun at his face and threatened to kill him was sufficient to sustain the assault conviction.

State v Monzon

Monzon appealed hiss entice for drug trafficking. The panel affirmed. It first held there was no error in considering drug weight as the sentencing statutes are silent on the issue and thus preserve district court discretion and the recommendations in the presentence investigation are just recommendations which did not create any rights for defendants. It held there was no breach of the pela agreement as the State did not refer the case to the federal authorities which is all that was promised, but, that the prosecutor inappropriately argued for prison as that would be the outcome in a federal case which was harmless as the district court did not rely on that argument to sentence Monzon. It finally held that the district court did in fact consider the mitigation evidence presented by the defense but permissibly ruled bringing five pounds of meth into Utah in order to pay some bills warranted prison time.

In the Interests of M.D., J.D. and A.D. (A.D. v State)

Father appealed the termination of his parental rights. The panel affirmed. It held father made no effort to participate in reunification services, had no contact with the children for over a year and failed to let the state know his contact information and thus additional efforts to reunify would have been futile. The panel held termination was in the best of interests of the children who had medical and mental health needs and the state and tribal officials were working on a tribal placement with relatives.