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State of Idaho v. John Alan Schulz

November 30, 2011

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN ALAN SCHULZ, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Kootenai County. The Honorable Lansing L. Haynes, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Jones, Justice.

2011 Opinion No. 122

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The order of the district court is affirmed.

This is an appeal from the dismissal of an information against John Schulz, who was charged with felony domestic battery under I.C. § 18-903 and -918(2) and attempted strangulation under I.C. § 18-923 of his 15-year-old daughter, E.S. Both charges required the State to prove that E.S. was Schulz' "household member" as defined in I.C. § 18-918(1)(a). The district court granted Schulz' motion to dismiss based on the fact that she did not fall within that definition. Because we find that the definition of "household member" plainly limits its application to intimate partners and, thus, does not extend to a child living with her father, we affirm.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

John Schulz was charged in Kootenai County in July of 2009 with felony domestic battery under I.C. § 18-903 and -918(2) and attempted strangulation under I.C. § 18-923 for allegedly injuring his 15-year-old daughter, E.S. Following a preliminary hearing probable cause for the charges was found, based on E.S.' testimony. The State thereafter filed an information that was consistent with the charges in the complaint but which amended the dates of the alleged incidents to match the preliminary hearing testimony.

According to E.S.' testimony, she was living with Schulz on a part-time basis under a shared custody arrangement with E.S.' step-mother at the time of the charged incidents. The felony domestic battery charge was based on an incident allegedly occurring April 12, 2009, where Schulz made E.S. lie on the ground while he struck her with a belt 10 to 15 times. The attempted strangulation charge was based on a second incident allegedly occurring June 28, 2009, where Schulz grabbed E.S. by the neck and squeezed for about one minute.

Schulz filed a motion to dismiss the information, asserting that an element of each charge is that the victim be a "household member" as defined in I.C. § 18-918(1)(a) and that E.S. did not meet that definition because it did not extend to the parent-child relationship. Schulz asserted that the term "cohabiting" within the definition of "household member" is ambiguous and, thus, turned to statutory construction to support his argument that the definition only applies to intimate partners. The State countered that the definition of "household member" unambiguously includes anyone living together, as it was interpreted by the Idaho Court of Appeals in State v. Hansell, 141 Idaho 587, 114 P.3d 145 (Ct. App. 2005).

The district court entered its Memorandum Decision Re: Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on January 12, 2010, granting Schulz' motion to dismiss. The district court found that: (1) the term "cohabiting" made the definition of "household member" ambiguous; (2) the Hansell interpretation was non-binding dicta as applied to the present case; (3) a plain-meaning reading of "cohabiting" to include all persons living under the same roof would lead to absurd results; (4) the text and legislative history of the definition indicated a focus on intimate relationships to the exclusion of the parent-child relationship; and (5) the Legislature provided child victims protection from parents separately under the injury to child statute, I.C. § 18-1501. On January 14, 2010, the district court entered its Order to Dismiss reflecting the decision in its prior memorandum. The State filed its Notice of Appeal on January 21, 2011, designating the district court's Memorandum Decision as the document from which it was appealing, rather than the subsequent Order to Dismiss. The State filed an amended notice of appeal on December 15, 2010, designating the Order to Dismiss along with the Memorandum Decision as the decisions from which the appeal was taken.

II.

ISSUES ON APPEAL

I. Whether this Court has jurisdiction to hear ...


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