State v Hummel

Hummel appealed his theft convictions arguing the jury was not unanimous as to the theory presented by the prosecution for four of the convictions, insufficient evidence and due process violations. The Court affirmed. It held that under Court precedent, the state constitutional requirement for a unanimous verdict is satisfied so long as the jury is unanimous as to the elements of the charged crimes and there is no requirement to agree about the means or methods or theory of the case. The Court noted the issue of whether there is a requirement for unanimity as to means or theory has never been decided and held there is no basis in the text of the requirement in Utah Constitution Article I Section 10 for a unanimous verdict that requires unanimity as to means or theory as the provision adopted the common law understating of the requirement which is limited to elements not means or theory; there is no logical connection between the requirement that elements be unanimously found and the judicially created requirements about proof as to alternative theories as the leading case on the subject actually only requires proof as a theory or means not proof as to all means and whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain a verdict tells the world nothing about whether the jury unanimously accepted that means or theory; and adopting such a rule would gut the requiems that error be prejudicial because it would invert the requirement that appellants prove the error affected the judgment appealed. It held that the verdicts here met the requirement as theft in Utah is one crime that can be committed by many means including deception and extortion, but those means or theories of the case are not elements and allowing theory based attacks would cause problems with line drawing as to what evidence crated a theory and what did not. The Court rejected the sufficiency challenges holding the evidence that Hummel removed client applications for appointed counsel form the clerk’s desk deprived the clients of information likely to affect their judgment as to whether to retain Hummel privately and evidence that Hummel instructed another client to overstate his income also supported the same theory of the crime and thus it is irrelevant whether the facts also supported the theory of theft by means of extortion. It held that Hummel failed to preserve his argument that a change in theory violated his right to know the nature of accusations against him as he failed to object and ask for a continuance. The Court held that plain error review applies to unpreserved prosecutorial misconduct claims and review is of the district court’s alleged error, not the prosecutor’s actions, and to the extent prosecutorial misconduct has been identified in Court precedent as a standalone ground allowing review, the Court repudiated those cases. Applying plain error review here, the Court held that Hummel failed to object to the allegedly false statements made at the preliminary hearing and made no plain error argument on appeal, that admitting evidence which contradicts other evidence cannot be error and that Hummel failed to object op all but one statement in the state’s closing argument and as to the one he did object to the trial court sustained the objection.

 

State v Wadsworth

Wadsworth sought review of the Utah Court of Appeals decision that lost wages can be awarded as criminal restitution without proof of bodily injury. The Court reversed. It held that Utah code 77-38a-302(5)(b)(iv) at the time of the offense here conditions the award of lost wages as criminal restitution on proof of bodily injury as it stated “if the offense results in bodily injury to a victim”, allowing lost wage awards without proof of bodily injury robs “if” of its plain meaning and construing the statute in this way allows both the general command to consider relevant circumstances with the express limitation on when lost wages can be awarded.

Tesla Motors UT, Inc. v Utah Tax Commission

Motors sought review of Commission’s denial of its application to sell Tesla automobiles. The Court affirmed. It held that Motors had a franchise agreement with Tesla under Utah Code 41-3-210(g) because it signed an agreement to sell cars and under 13-14-102 because it planned to use a building with Tesla trademarks on it to sell cars and thus had at least an implied grant of permission to use trademarks and other intellectual property and both Motors and Tulsa have a unity of interest in selling Tesla cars. As Utah Code 13-14-201(1)(u) prohibits the manufacturer form having an interest in the dealership, Motors application was properly denied as it wholly owned by Tesla. It held Motors’ purpose argument could not overcome the text of the statutes as the text, not the purpose, is the law and most statutes have multiple purposes. It held that the motor vehicle division was exercising appropriate authority when it considered whether Tesla had an ownership interest in Motors as one of the criteria in deciding whether to approve a license to sell cars is whether there is any violation of state or federal law and 201(1)(u) was violated here. It rejected Motors constitutional arguments holding Utah Constitution Article XII Section 20 states a nonjudiciable policy of promoting a free market and the statutes here rationally advance the interest in consumer protection by requiring dealerships to be independent of manufactures thus satisfying due process, equal protection and the dormant commerce clause.

State v Rushton

Rushton sought review of the Utah Court of Appeals decision that affirmed the denial of his motion to dismiss arguing his prior tax conviction and current wage crime convictions both had the single criminal objective of embezzling money. The Court, with two justices concurring, affirmed. The majority held that the mandatory joinder statute, Utah Code 76-1-401, and the permissive joinder statute, Utah Code 77-8a-1, must be read together in order to determine the plain meaning of the definition of single criminal episode definition in 76-1-402, that interpreting “single criminal purpose” broadly to encompass stealing money entrusted to Rushton would render the permissive statute inoperative and thus must be rejected and further held that harmonizing related chapters in the code is part of plain language analysis and   eh fact the two sections are in different titles does not affect the analysis. The majority rejected the concurrence’s view that single criminal objective means single crime as not consistent with the plain language of 401 as it uses objective and not offense or crime and the concurrence’s proposed test is no more predictive that the one adopted by the majority and indeed could lead to different trial judges reaching different decisions as to whether crimes are “related” to each other thus effectively adopting the multiple factor test the majority adopted and that the concurrence test would wrongly allow multiple prosecutions when a bank robber uses a single computer program to stela form multiple victims and would wrongly bar multiple convictions for kidnapping and robbery when the crimes are separated in time and have different victims. Drawing from Utah case law, the majority adopted a totality of the circumstances test and identified location, nature of the offenses, whether there are different victims and opportunity to deliberately engage in the next in time offenses as factors in the analysis. Applying here, the majority held that location was unclear from the record and in any event not dispositive, the nature of the of tax and wage offenses are different given the different financial concepts and bodies of proof involved, involved different victims namely the state for tax crimes and employees for wage crimes and Rushton had time to deliberate as the wages were due monthly while the taxes were due quarterly and thus joinder was not required here. The majority closed by noting similar tests for mandatory joinder have been applied in other states and there is no evidence that unpredictability has resulted, noted that preventing improper serial prosecutions is best served by encouraging overjoinder and that procedural tools of joinder and severance are available. Justice Lee, joined by Durrant, concurred arguing that 402 limits mandatory joinder to conduct that is incident to attempting or accomplishing the identified objective crime being analyzed, that incident to implies causation and thus there must be some kind of connection or relationship between the charged crimes analyzed to require joinder dn here, Rushton made no showing that the tax and wage crimes were related or connected in any way. He also argued that the majority test will result in inchoate crimes being prosecuted separately from the completed underlying crimes, that the majority test is both underinclusive and overinclusive and the test offered in the concurrence is not very sweeping a prosecutors will join charges for practical reasons and the majority’s test is unpredictable as it allows consideration of any relevant factor. He ended arguing that totality of the circumstances is inappropriate here, as prosecutors need to know the preclusive effects of their charging decisions at the time of charging.