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State v. Amstad

Supreme Court of Idaho

November 29, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DANIEL C. AMSTAD, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Latah County. John R. Stegner, District Judge.

         The order of dismissal entered by the District Court is reversed and this case is remanded with instructions.

          Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney for Appellant. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          D. Ray Barker, Moscow, attorneys for Respondent. Andrea S. Hunter argued.

          BEVAN, J.

         I. Nature of the Case

         This appeal concerns the interpretation of Idaho Code section 37-2732. The State charged Daniel C. Amstad with violating section 37-2732 for "being present at or on premises of any place where he knows illegal controlled substances are being manufactured or cultivated, or are being held . . . ." Amstad moved to dismiss on the basis that he was in a vehicle, so his conduct did not fall within the statute. The magistrate court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The State appealed and the district court affirmed, holding that "premises" and "place" under section 37-2732 do not include a parked vehicle. We reverse and remand with instructions.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         On January 20, 2017, an officer noticed a vehicle with foggy windows in the parking lot near the Wallace Complex on the campus of the University of Idaho. As the officer approached the vehicle he smelled marijuana. The officer knocked on the passenger door, which Amstad opened, revealing a baggie containing what the officer believed to be marijuana on the driver's lap. The State charged Amstad under Idaho Code section 37-2732 with frequenting a place where drugs were being held for use. On March 28, 2017, Amstad moved to dismiss arguing that a person cannot "frequent" a vehicle. The State responded and argued Amstad was at a "place" where drugs were being used. The magistrate court granted Amstad's motion and dismissed the case.

         The State appealed, asserting that the magistrate court erred by holding that a parking lot belonging to the University of Idaho was not a "premises of any place" under Idaho Code section 37-2732(d). On December 1, 2017, the district court issued its memorandum opinion on appeal. At the outset, the district court challenged what it called the State's attempt to reframe the issue to analyze a parking lot versus a vehicle; instead, the district stated it would only analyze the issue as it was presented to the magistrate court, i.e., "whether a person can be 'present at or on the premises of any place' if they [sic] are in a vehicle." The district court later held that it was clear that the definitions of "premises" or "place" do not include a car. The State timely appealed.

         III. Issue on Appeal

         Whether the district court erred when it concluded that a vehicle is not within the scope of Idaho Code section 37-2732(d).

         IV. Standard of Review

         This Court exercises free review over statutory interpretation because it presents a question of law. State v. Owens, 158 Idaho 1, 3, 343 P.3d 30, 32 (2015). On review of a decision rendered by a district court in its intermediate appellate capacity, the reviewing court "directly review[s] the district court's decision to determine whether it correctly decided the ...


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