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State of Idaho v. Christopher Briggs

November 15, 2012

STATE OF IDAHO,
PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CHRISTOPHER BRIGGS,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Kathryn A. Sticklen, District Judge. Hon. Thomas P. Watkins, Magistrate.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gratton, Chief Judge

2012 Unpublished Opinion No. 720

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

THIS IS AN UNPUBLISHED OPINION AND SHALL NOT BE CITED AS AUTHORITY

District court's appellate decision affirming magistrate court's judgment of conviction for second degree stalking, affirmed.

Christopher Briggs appeals from the district court's decision on intermediate appeal affirming his misdemeanor conviction. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Briggs was convicted by jury verdict of second degree stalking, in violation of Idaho Code § 18-7906. After dismissing the jury, the magistrate notified the parties that the jury may have been misinstructed, because the definition provided for "course of conduct" did not follow the amended statute. Specifically, the definition did not describe that the challenged conduct must be "repeated acts of nonconsensual contact." Briggs moved for a new trial. Following a hearing, the magistrate denied the motion finding that the instructional error was harmless because all the evidence presented at trial described nonconsensual acts. Therefore, the jury could only convict Briggs based on nonconsensual acts. Briggs appealed the magistrate's decision to the district court and the district court affirmed the judgment of conviction. Briggs appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

Briggs claims that the jury instructions: (1) were improper because the jury was misled as to the elements of the crime; and (2) deprived Briggs of a fair trial because his constitutional rights were not protected. The State contends that Briggs failed to establish fundamental error; therefore, the district court did not err in affirming the conviction. Further, the State alleges that Briggs' constitutional rights claim was never raised below and is not properly before this Court.

On review of a decision of the district court, rendered in its appellate capacity, we review the decision of the district court directly. Losser v. Bradstreet, 145 Idaho 670, 672, 183 P.3d 758, 760 (2008); 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. Losser, 145 Idaho at 672, 183 P.3d at 760; DeWitt, 145 Idaho at 711, 184 P.3d at 217. 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. Losser, 145 Idaho at 672, 183 P.3d at 760; DeWitt, 145 Idaho at 711, 184 P.3d at 217.

The question whether the jury has been properly instructed is a question of law over which we exercise free review. State v. Severson, 147 Idaho 694, 710, 215 P.3d 414, 430 (2009). When reviewing jury instructions, we ask whether the instructions as a whole, and not individually, fairly and accurately reflect applicable law. State v. Bowman, 124 Idaho 936, 942, 866 P.2d 193, 199 (Ct. App. 1993). An erroneous instruction will not constitute reversible error unless the instructions as a whole misled the jury or prejudiced a party. State v. Shackelford, 150 Idaho 355, 374, 247 P.3d 582, 601 (2010). We presume that the jury followed the court's instructions. See State v. Kilby, 130 Idaho 747, 751, 947 P.2d 420, 424 (Ct. App. 1997); State v. Hudson, 129 Idaho 478, 481, 927 P.2d 451, 454 (Ct. App. 1996). Briggs failed to object to the instruction below, therefore he asserts the error is fundamental in order to obtain appellate review.

Generally, issues not raised below may not be considered for the first time on appeal. State v. Fodge, 121 Idaho 192, 195, 824 P.2d 123, 126 (1992). Idaho decisional law, however, has long allowed appellate courts to consider a claim of error to which no objection was made below if the issue presented rises to the level of fundamental error. See State v. Field, 144 Idaho 559, 571, 165 P.3d 273, 285 (2007); State v. Haggard, 94 Idaho 249, 251, 486 P.2d 260, 262 (1971). In State v. Perry, 150 Idaho 209, 245 P.3d 961 (2010), the Idaho Supreme Court abandoned the definitions it had previously utilized to describe what may constitute fundamental error. The Perry Court held that an appellate court should reverse an unobjected-to error when the defendant persuades the court that the alleged error: (1) violates one or more of the defendant's unwaived constitutional rights; (2) the error is clear or obvious without the need for reference to any additional information not contained in the appellate record; and (3) the error affected the outcome of the trial proceedings. Id. at 226, 245 P.3d at 978. Because jury instructions that relieve the State of its duty ...


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