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State v. Clarence Tams

September 21, 2010

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CLARENCE TAMS, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Boundary County. Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge. Hon. Quentin Harden, Magistrate.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Melanson, Judge

2010 Opinion No. 65

Order of the district court, on intermediate appeal from the magistrate division, vacating judgment of conviction for placing debris on a highway, affirmed.

The State of Idaho appeals from the district court's intermediate appellate decision vacating Clarence Tams' judgment of conviction for placing debris on a highway. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Tams was hauling cattle from Canada to a slaughterhouse in Washington. Prior to crossing the border into the United States, Tams passed through a significant rainstorm, which added rainwater to the mixture of cattle manure and urine accumulating in the trailer. While traveling through northern Idaho en route to the slaughterhouse, Tams made a slow turn onto a local highway. A nearby officer observed a mixture of cattle manure, urine, and water spill from Tams' cattle trailer onto the roadway. When the officer pulled Tams over, more of the mixture spilled out of the trailer. The officer cited Tams with misdemeanor placing debris on a highway.

I.C. § 18-3906.

At trial, Tams argued that I.C. § 18-3906 did not apply to the dumping of cow manure or urine. The magistrate disagreed, holding that a mixture of cow manure and urine is a waste substance under the statute and that Tams negligently permitted the deposit of a waste substance onto a public highway. The magistrate found Tams guilty of violating I.C. § 18-3906 and sentenced him to sixteen hours in the sheriff's labor program and a $100 fine.

Tams appealed to the district court, which vacated Tams' judgment of conviction. The district court determined that the magistrate erred because the manure mixture was not considered a waste substance under the statute. Specifically, the district court reasoned that, unlike the other substances expressly mentioned in the statute, the mixture leaking from Tams' trailer was a liquid. Further, the district court concluded that the magistrate erred because the state had not proven that Tams was criminally negligent. The state appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

The state argues that the district court erred when it vacated Tams' judgment of conviction. Specifically, the state asserts that the district court erred by concluding that the mixture spilled from Tams' trailer was not a waste substance under I.C. § 18-3906. Further, the state asserts that the district court erred when it held that there was not substantial evidence to support the magistrate's finding that Tams was criminally negligent.

On review of a decision of the district court, rendered in its appellate capacity, we review the decision of the district court directly. State v. DeWitt, 145 Idaho 709, 711, 184 P.3d 215, 217 (Ct. App. 2008). We examine the magistrate record to determine whether there is substantial and competent evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from those findings. Id. If those findings are so supported and the conclusions follow therefrom and if the district court affirmed the magistrate's decision, we affirm the district court's decision as a matter of procedure. Id.

A. Idaho Code Section 18-3906

The state argues on appeal that I.C. ยง 18-3906 prohibits the spilling of a mixture of cow manure, urine, and rainwater onto our public roadways. Idaho Code ...


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