J.D. v. Hegyi, — P.3d —, No. 1 CA-SA 13-0296, 2014 WL 943145 (Ariz. Ct. App. Mar. 11, 2014)
March 26, 2014
Defendant was arrested on charges of sexually abusing the minor-victim, and the victim’s mother asserted victims’ rights on behalf of both her daughter and herself. Defendant sought and was granted seven trial continuances and the victim turned 18-years-old before trial commenced. Defendant then sought to compel the victim’s mother to submit to a defense interview, contending that she could no longer refuse an interview by asserting victims’ rights. The trial court agreed, granting defendant’s motion to compel the victim’s mother to submit to the defense interview. The mother petitioned for special action relief from the trial court’s order, arguing that her right to refuse a defense interview as the parent of a minor-victim continues to be enforceable throughout the duration of the criminal proceedings, even after the victim turns 18-years-old. The court of appeals accepted special action jurisdiction and affirmed the trial court’s order, holding that the parent of a minor-victim loses the right to refuse a defense interview once the victim turns 18-years-old. The court first considered the definition of victim provided by statute, which is the “person against whom the criminal offense has been committed, including a minor[,]” finding that the legislature made clear that when an offense is committed against a minor, the minor herself is the victim. The court acknowledged that another statute provides for the right of a minor-victim’s parents to exercise all of the victim’s rights on behalf of the victim, but concluded that this right is conditioned on the victim’s status as a minor. The court reasoned that “[i]f [the] legislature had intended parents to have a continuing right to exercise victims’ rights for a child, post-minority, it would have defined parents of minor victims as victims themselves, or provided that parents could exercise indefinitely all victims’ rights on behalf of a minor victim.” The court similarly interpreted another statute, which specifically applies the right to refuse an interview to “the parents … of a minor child who exercises victims’ rights on behalf of the minor child[,]” as providing the parent only a “derivative right conditioned upon [the victim’s] status as a minor[.]” Because the minor-victim had turned 18-years-old, the court held that the mother could not invoke this statute to refuse a defense interview either. The court did conclude, however, that because the legislature had mandated that it “liberally construe” victims’ rights and because “[t]here is little question that permitting the defense to interview Mother about information she learned during Daughter’s minority would erode Daughter’s rights in a manner inconsistent with legislative intent[,]” the defense must limit the scope of any interview with the victim’s mother “to subjects that do not concern information Mother received while Daughter was a minor.”
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