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National Crime Victim Law Institute

J.D. v. Hegyi, 335 P.3d 1118 (Ariz. 2014)

November 21, 2014

The Arizona Voice for Crime Victims represented the victim-petitioner and her mother in this appeal.  Edward D. Johnson, a private attorney in Peoria, Arizona generously donated his time to act as local counsel for NCVLI in the filing of an amicus curiae brief in the case in support of the victims’ rights.

J.D. v. Hegyi, 335 P.3d 1118 (Ariz. 2014).

When victim-petitioner was 16-years-old, she accused her step-father of sexual abuse and the state initiated criminal proceedings against him.  Pursuant to Arizona’s victims’ rights laws, mother and daughter refused to submit to a pretrial defense interview.  Trial was continued several times and during the pendency of the proceedings, the victim-petitioner turned 18-years-old.  Defendant then filed a motion to compel the mother to submit to a defense interview on the basis that Section 13-4433(G), which allows a parent to exercise victims’ rights on behalf of a minor-victim, limits the exercise of those rights until the child turns 18-years-old.  The superior court granted defendant’s motion and victim-petitioner and her mother sought special action relief in the court of appeals.  The court of appeals held that a victim reaching the age of majority extinguishes the parent’s right to refuse a defense interview, but the parent cannot be compelled to reveal any information received while the victim was still a minor.  Victim-petitioner and her mother appealed the decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.  In resolving the issue, the court looked beyond the plain language of the statute and relied on the context, subject matter, historical background, and purpose and effect of Section 13-4433(G).  The court reasoned that the court of appeals decision would invite collateral litigation over the scope of permissible questioning, and would be in tension with the fact that the legislature rejected a proposed amendment that would have allowed defense interviews of parents who were exercising the rights of minor children who were also witnesses in the case.  The court then concluded that allowing a compelled defense interview of a parent who formerly exercised victims’ rights on behalf of a child solely based on the child reaching the age of majority, is contrary to the purpose of Section 13-4433(G), the statutory scheme as a whole, and the Victims’ Bill of Rights.  As such, the court held that “a parent who exercises victims’ rights on behalf of a minor child is entitled to refuse a defense interview through the final disposition of charges, even if the child earlier turns eighteen.”  The court then vacated the court of appeals opinion and the superior court order and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.