672 P.2d 1129 (N.M. 1983), 14972, State v. Segotta

Docket Nº:14972.
Citation:672 P.2d 1129, 100 N.M. 498, 1983 -NMSC- 092
Opinion Judge:[11] Riordan
Party Name:STATE of New Mexico, Petitioner, v. Lisa Jeanette SEGOTTA, aka Lisa J. Baca, Respondent. STATE of New Mexico, Petitioner, v. David O. MEAD, Respondent.
Attorney:Paul Bardacke, Atty. Gen., Carol Vigil, Asst. Atty. Gen., Santa Fe, for petitioner., Scott McCarty, Albuquerque, Janet Clow, Chief Public Defender, Ellen Bayard, Asst. Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, for respondents. [7] Paul Bardacke, Attorney General, Carol Vigil, Assistant Attorney General, San...
Judge Panel:PAYNE, C.J., SOSA, Senior Justice, and FEDERICI and STOWERS, JJ., concur.
Case Date:November 17, 1983
Court:Supreme Court of New Mexico

Page 1129

672 P.2d 1129 (N.M. 1983)

100 N.M. 498, 1983 -NMSC- 092

STATE of New Mexico, Petitioner,

v.

Lisa Jeanette SEGOTTA, aka Lisa J. Baca, Respondent.

STATE of New Mexico, Petitioner,

v.

David O. MEAD, Respondent.

No. 14972.

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

November 17, 1983

Rehearing Denied Dec. 13, 1983.

[100 N.M. 499]

Page 1130

Paul Bardacke, Atty. Gen., Carol Vigil, Asst. Atty. Gen., Santa Fe, for petitioner.

Scott McCarty, Albuquerque, Janet Clow, Chief Public Defender, Ellen Bayard, Asst. Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, for respondents.

OPINION

RIORDAN, Justice.

Defendants Lisa Jeanette Segotta (Segotta) and David O. Mead (Mead), were indicted on Count I for the first degree murder of John A. Segotta contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-2-1(A), and on Count II for conspiracy to commit first degree murder contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-28-2, and NMSA 1978, Section 30-2-1(A). Segotta was also indicted on Count III for solicitation to commit first degree murder contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-28-3 (Cum.Supp.1980), and Section 30-2-1(A). Both Segotta and Mead were convicted of second degree murder. Segotta was also convicted of solicitation to commit first degree murder. On review, the Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions of Segotta and Mead but remanded both cases for resentencing because NMSA 1978, Section 31-18-15.1 (Cum.Supp.1983) was held unconstitutional. State v. Segotta, 100 N.M. 18, 665 P.2d 280 (Ct.App.1983); State v. Mead, 100 N.M. 27, 665 P.2d 289 (Ct.App.1983). The State of New Mexico (State) petitions for writ of certiorari. We reverse both cases only on the issue of the constitutionality of Section 31-18-15.1.

The issue addressed is whether Section 31-18-15.1 is unconstitutionally vague.

The facts are adequately presented in both opinions by the Court of Appeals. After trial and upon both convictions for second degree murder, the trial court found that aggravating circumstances existed and sentenced Segotta and Mead to be imprisoned for twelve years, nine years as a basic sentence and three years for aggravating circumstances.

On review, the Court of Appeals held that Section 31-18-15.1 did not withstand the constitutional challenge of vagueness. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that the lack of guidelines renders Section 31-18-15.1 void for vagueness and that absent either guidelines or criteria for determining what circumstances may be aggravating, Section 31-18-15.1 lacks clarity and is subject to widely varied application. We disagree.

A statute will be held unconstitutional in violation of due process of law, if the statute either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must guess at its meaning and differ as to its application. Bokum Resources Corp. v. New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission, 93 N.M. 546, 603 P.2d 285 (1979). Constitutional vagueness is based on notice and applies when a potential actor is exposed to criminal sanctions without a fair warning as to

Page 1131

[100 N.M. 500] the nature of the proscribed proceedings. State v. Marchiondo, 85 N.M. 627, 515 P.2d 146 (Ct.App.1973). Nevertheless, in scrutinizing the constitutionality of a statute, we have adopted certain rules of statutory construction. Namely, we presume the statute to be constitutional. Gruschus v. Bureau of Revenue, 74 N.M. 775, 399 P.2d 105 (1965). In addition, we have a duty to construe a statute in such a manner that it is not void for vagueness if a reasonable and practical construction can be given to its language. See State ex rel. Sanchez v. Reese, 79 N.M. 624, 447 P.2d 504 (1968). The statute must be read and considered as a whole so as to ascertain its legislative intent, and the statute's words and phrases are to be considered in their generally accepted meaning. See State v. Najera, 89 N.M. 522, 554 P.2d 983 (Ct.App.1976).

Section 31-18-15.1 provides that:

A. The court shall hold a sentencing hearing to determine if mitigating or aggravating circumstances exist and take whatever evidence or statements it deems will aid it in reaching a decision. The court may alter the basic sentence as prescribed in Section 31-18-15 NMSA 1978 upon a finding by the judge of any mitigating or aggravating circumstances surrounding the offense or concerning the offender. If the court determines to alter the basic sentence, it shall issue a brief...

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