2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 568
Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Payette County. Hon. Thomas Joseph Ryan, District Judge. Hon. A. Lynne Krogh, Magistrate.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Lori A. Fleming, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for appellant.
Charles D. Coulter, Boise, for respondent.
WALTERS, Judge Pro Tem
This is an appeal by the State from an intermediate appellate decision by the district court that set aside a judgment of conviction entered in the magistrate division for maintaining a nuisance in violation of a city code. We reverse the district court's decision and affirm the judgment of conviction.
FACTS AND PROCEDURE
John Huntington Wilks was charged with violation of an ordinance of the City of Fruitland that regulates nuisances. Specifically, the city prosecutor alleged that Wilks "knowingly and unlawfully allow[ed] a junk vehicle to remain on his property within the City [a] Public nuisance, which is in violation of Fruitland City Code 8-2B-1, a misdemeanor." Wilks was also charged with an additional violation for allowing weeds to grow above eight inches high on the same property. After a trial before the court without a jury, a magistrate found Wilks guilty of the vehicle nuisance violation, but not guilty of the charge relating to the growth of weeds. The magistrate rejected Wilks' asserted defense that he had a constitutionally-protected right to maintain inoperable motor vehicles on the property in question, which preceded the annexation of the property into the City and also preceded the adoption of the ordinance Wilks was charged with violating. On appeal to the district court, the district court set aside the judgment of conviction entered by the magistrate, concluding that Wilks' use of the property is constitutionally protected and protected under Idaho law as a preexisting, nonconforming use. The State has appealed from the district court's intermediate appellate decision.
On review of a decision of the district court, rendered in its appellate capacity, we review that decision directly and 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 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). When a criminal action has been tried before a court sitting without a jury, appellate review of the sufficiency of the evidence is limited to ascertaining whether there is substantial evidence upon which a court could have found that the prosecution met its burden of proving the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Bettwieser, 143 Idaho 582, 588, 149 P.3d 857, 863 (Ct. App. 2006); State v. Smith, 139 Idaho 295, 298, 77 P.3d 984, 987 (Ct. App. 2003). We are precluded from substituting our judgment for that of the fact finder as to the credibility of witnesses, the weight of evidence, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence. State v. Vandenacre, 131 Idaho 507, 510, 960 P.2d 190, 193 (Ct. App. 1998); State v. Hickman, 119 Idaho 366, 367, 806 P.2d 959, 960 (Ct. App. 1991). We conduct free review of questions of law presented. Martel v. Bulotti, 138 Idaho 451, 453, 65 P.3d 192, 194 (2003) (citing Polk v. Larrabee, 135 Idaho 303, 308, 17 P.3d 247, 252 (2000)).
The facts presented at trial and supporting the magistrate's determination that Wilks was guilty of violating the junk vehicle nuisance ordinance were largely undisputed. They show that in 1950, Wilks' parents purchased real property in Payette County, recording the deed in 1952. The property was annexed into the City of Fruitland in 1967 and was zoned for single family residential use. In 1973, the Fruitland City Council adopted the ordinance making it unlawful for any person to maintain a junk motor vehicle on residential property for a period of more than thirty days. ...