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National Crime Victim Law Institute

State v. Lucas, — P.3d —, No. 1 CA-CR 13-0215, 2014 WL 1094683 (Ariz. Ct. App. Mar. 20, 2014).

March 26, 2014

Defendant was convicted of two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of transferring dangerous drugs, and two counts of involving a minor in drug offenses.  Before trial, defendant obtained at least seven trial continuances, during which time the victim turned 18-years-old.  After the victim turned 18-years-old, defendant moved to depose the victim’s grandmother—the person with whom the victim lived and who had been exercising the victim’s rights on his behalf.  The trial court denied defendant’s motion to depose the victim’s grandmother, holding that status for victims’ rights purposes is defined at the time of the commission of the offense, and the fact that the victim turned 18-years-old during the pendency of the proceedings did not change the grandmother’s right to assert her rights as a victim.  Defendant appealed, and the appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision.  The court held that “a common sense reading” of the statute granting a parent or legal guardian who exercises victims’ rights on behalf of the minor-victim an independent right to refuse an interview on the parent’s or guardian’s own behalf is that once the parent or guardian “‘exercises’ victims’ rights on the victim’s behalf, the statutory right to refuse an interview attaches to the parent or legal guardian and remains enforceable until the criminal proceedings have concluded.”  The court found that no temporal limitation of the parent’s or guardian’s right is expressed in the statutory language, and nothing in the statute’s text or purposes indicates that such a limitation should be read into the language.  As the court explained: 

Holding that the parent or legal guardian’s right to refuse an interview ends the moment that the minor victim turns eighteen would defeat the protection the statute provides.  Such a holding would allow the disclosure of formerly confidential information between the victim and the parent or guardian.  This would chill the minor victim’s free and honest disclosure of information with a trusted adult, thereby disrupting the victim’s ability to rely on the parent or guardian and frustrating the very purpose of the Victims’ Bill of Rights.

The court further observed that defendant’s reading of this statute would create an anomaly in the victims’ rights statutes generally, as another statute provides that victims’ rights continue through the end of the criminal proceedings. Lastly, the court respectfully declined to follow the decision of another panel of the court in J.D. v. Hegyi, — P.3d —, No. 1 CA-SA 13-0296, 2014 WL 943145 (Ariz. Ct. App. Mar. 11, 2014), in which the court held that the right of a minor-victim’s parent or legal guardian to refuse an interview or deposition ceases when the victim turns 18-years-old, finding that this decision departs from the statute’s text and purpose.  The court explained that permitting defendants to compel parents or guardians to submit to depositions or interviews would create controversies about whether questions involved matters that occurred when the parent or legal guardian had the protection of the statute and that, as a result, the parent or legal guardian would be entitled to have counsel present, and that resolving these controversies would create collateral litigation leading to further trial delays.  The court found that such an outcome would be contrary to the admonishment of the Arizona Supreme Court to refrain from creating “ad hoc exceptions” to victims’ rights that “can only increase the harassment of victims that the Victims’ Bill of Rights was designed to decrease.”  The court then affirmed defendant’s convictions, with the exception of those for involving or using a minor in a drug transaction, which were vacated for other reasons.  

 

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