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State v. Heiner

Court of Appeals of Idaho

December 1, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
MELISSA HEINER, aka OLIN, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 65

         Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. Robert C. Naftz, District Judge.

         Judgment of conviction, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Brian R. Dickson, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Brian R. Dickson argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Russell J. Spencer, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          Russell J. Spencer argued.

          HUSKEY, JUDGE

         Melissa Heiner, aka Olin, appeals from her judgment of conviction entered upon the jury verdict finding her guilty of possession of methamphetamine. Heiner argues the district court erred when it: (1) denied Heiner's request to instruct the jury on Idaho Code § 18-201(1) and (2) denied Heiner's motion for a new trial. Because other jury instructions adequately addressed the same issue as the instruction requested by Heiner, the district court did not err in denying Heiner's requested jury instruction and did not abuse its discretion in denying Heiner's motion for a new trial. We affirm the district court's judgment of conviction.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Police stopped a vehicle with an expired license plate. Heiner was the passenger in the vehicle. The officer made contact with the driver, explained the reason for the stop, and conducted a driver's check on the driver and Heiner. The officer discovered that the driver had a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest, as well as an invalid driver's license. The driver was arrested based on the warrant.

         The officer made contact with Heiner and asked her to step out of the vehicle. During the subsequent search of the vehicle, the officer found a purse that Heiner admitted belonged to her. The purse held other small coin purses, two of which contained plastic bags with white residue. One bag tested presumptively positive for methamphetamine and the other did not. When asked about the bag that tested positive for methamphetamine, Heiner explained she thought the white residue was aspirin. Heiner was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, I.C. § 37-2732(c)(1).

         At trial, Heiner claimed ignorance as her defense. Generally, Heiner testified that she did not have knowledge that methamphetamine was in her purse. Heiner explained there was aspirin in her purse, but she did not notice anything unusual about the container containing the aspirin. Heiner did not recall any other baggie in her purse aside from the aspirin baggie. Heiner explained she never owned any baggies with controlled substances and she had no explanation how a baggie with methamphetamine was in her purse. Defense counsel requested the district court provide a jury instruction with language from I.C. § 18-201(1), which explained a person is incapable of committing a crime if the person committed the act under ignorance or mistake of fact which disproves any criminal intent. The district court declined to give the requested instruction.

         The jury found Heiner guilty of possession of methamphetamine. Heiner filed a motion to set aside the verdict and a motion for a new trial, which the district court denied.[1] The district court sentenced Heiner to a unified term of five years, with two years determinate, suspended the sentence, and placed Heiner on probation for a period of four years. Heiner timely appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 ...


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