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State v. Lantis

Supreme Court of Idaho

August 23, 2019

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
AARON EUGENE LANTIS, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Gerald F. Schroeder, District Judge.

         The ruling of the district court is affirmed.

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

          Ada Country Public Defender, Boise, attorney for Respondent. Anita M. Moore argued.

          BEVAN, JUSTICE

         I. NATURE OF THE CASE

         This appeal concerns the application of Idaho's Disturbing the Peace Statute, Idaho Code section 18-6409, to the unique facts presented in this case. Aaron Lantis was convicted of misdemeanor disturbing the peace by sending sexually suggestive photographs of his ex-girlfriend to her employer in an effort to get her fired. During trial, Lantis moved for a judgment of acquittal asserting that the statute did not apply to his actions. The magistrate court denied Lantis' motion. Lantis was found guilty by a jury and he made the same motion post-verdict, which was likewise denied. He appealed to the district court, asserting the same grounds. The district court agreed with Lantis and vacated Lantis' conviction, holding that Lantis' conduct was outside the scope of the statute. The State appealed and we affirm the district court.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Aaron Lantis was charged with the misdemeanor offense of disturbing the peace in violation of Idaho Code section 18-6409. The State alleged he committed the crime by sending sexually suggestive photographs of H.H. (Lantis' ex-girlfriend) to her employer in an unsuccessful attempt to have her fired. During trial, H.H. testified that Lantis' conduct left her feeling humiliated, fearful for her job, and worried what recipients of the email in question thought of her. After the State rested, Lantis made a motion for judgment of acquittal pursuant to I.C.R. 29(c) and a motion to dismiss pursuant to I.C.R. 48. Both motions were denied. Lantis was found guilty by the jury.

         Following the verdict, Lantis made a post-verdict motion for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29, asserting that the State's evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction since it failed to prove an actus reus falling within Idaho Code section 18-6409. This motion was again denied by the magistrate judge. Lantis then appealed to the district court, which reversed the jury's verdict and vacated the judgment of conviction. The district court held that the State failed to present evidence supporting a conviction for disturbing the peace because, while the conduct was "clearly offensive," it was "outside the statutory definition of disturbing the peace." Lantis also raised a constitutional challenge, alleging that the statute was void for vagueness as to his conduct. The district court did not reach that issue since it decided the case on statutory construction grounds. The State then appealed.

         III. ISSUES ON APPEAL

         1. Did Lantis' act of sending compromising pictures of H.H. to H.H.'s employer fall within the purview of Idaho Code section 18-6409?

         2. If Lantis' conduct does constitute disturbing the peace as defined in section 18-6409, is the statute void for vagueness and overbreadth?

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         On review of a decision rendered by a district court while acting in its intermediate appellate capacity, this Court directly reviews the district court's decision. In re Estate of Peterson, 157 Idaho 827, 830, 340 P.3d 1143, 1146 (2014). This Court exercises free review over statutory interpretation because it is a question of law. State v. Dunlap, 155 Idaho 345, 361, 313 P.3d 1, 17 (2013).

         The constitutionality of a statute is also a question of law over which this Court exercises free review. Alcohol Beverage Control v. Boyd, 148 Idaho 944, 947-48, 231 P.3d 1041, 1043-44 (2010).

         V. ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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