Firestone v. State, No. 38269.

Docket NºNo. 38269.
Citation120 Nev. 13, 83 P.3d 279
Case DateJanuary 30, 2004
CourtSupreme Court of Nevada

83 P.3d 279
120 Nev. 13

Ronald E. FIRESTONE, Appellant,
v.
The STATE of Nevada, Respondent

No. 38269.

Supreme Court of Nevada.

January 30, 2004.


Gary E. Gowen, Las Vegas, for Appellant.

Brian Sandoval, Attorney General, Carson City; David J. Roger, District Attorney, James Tufteland, Chief Deputy District Attorney, and Thomas M. Carroll, Deputy District

83 P.3d 280
Attorney, Clark County, for Respondent

Before the Court En Banc.1

OPINION

By the Court, SHEARING, C.J.:

This appeal raises the issue of whether a defendant may be convicted of multiple counts of leaving the scene of an accident when there is more than one victim in a single accident. We conclude that NRS 484.219 allows only one charge of leaving the scene of a single accident, regardless of the number of victims. Therefore, we vacate two of Ronald Firestone's convictions for leaving the scene of an accident.

FACTS

The State charged Firestone with three felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident. Firestone pleaded not guilty, and the case went to jury trial.

At the jury trial, the Werly family testified that around 10:30 p.m. on July 29, 1996, they were returning home to Boulder City, Nevada, from Nelson, Nevada, in two Toyota trucks. One truck was driven by the father, Tony, with his daughter, Jill, as a passenger. The second truck was driven by the mother, Susan, with Roxanne and Joel, Susan and Tony's daughter and son, as passengers. Approximately seven miles east of Nelson, Tony and Jill encountered a Buick coming toward them in their lane. Tony managed to swerve into the desert to avoid a collision. Susan, driving behind Tony in the second vehicle, failed to see the oncoming Buick due to the hilly terrain and collided with the oncoming Buick. Susan, Roxanne, and Joel sustained numerous injuries.

Both Jill and Tony testified that at the accident scene, they saw a middle-aged man with a scruffy appearance emerge from the Buick and approach Susan's truck. Tony recognized the driver as Ronald Firestone. Firestone asked both Jill and Tony if they were okay. Tony refused Firestone's offer to help and pushed Firestone away. Firestone then walked into the desert, leaving his Buick at the accident scene.

The jury found Firestone guilty of three counts of leaving the scene of an accident. The district court sentenced Firestone to a maximum term of 180 months with parole eligibility after 72 months in the Nevada Department of Prisons on each of the three counts, to be served consecutively. Firestone appealed that conviction. This court dismissed Firestone's direct appeal.2 Firestone's counsel failed to raise the issue of duplicitous convictions at trial or on appeal.3

Firestone filed a timely post-conviction petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his trial and appellate counsel was ineffective for a number of reasons, including failing to object at trial and raise on direct appeal the issue that Firestone's three counts of leaving the scene of the accident resulted in duplicitous convictions. The district court denied Firestone's petition for post-conviction relief. Firestone filed a timely notice of appeal.

DISCUSSION

Firestone's only meritorious allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel is his argument that his counsel should have raised the issue of duplicitous convictions.

To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must demonstrate that counsel's performance "fell below an objective standard of reasonableness"4 and that counsel's "deficient performance prejudiced

83 P.3d 281
the defense."5 "To establish prejudice based on the deficient assistance of appellate counsel, the [petitioner] must show that the omitted issue would have a reasonable probability of success on appeal."6 We conclude that Firestone's trial and appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the multiple counts of leaving the scene of an accident. Counsel's performance was deficient and prejudiced the defense by omitting an issue that, as explained below, clearly has merit and undermines two of the convictions

Firestone argues that his constitutional right against double jeopardy has been violated because the district court convicted Firestone of three counts of leaving the scene of the accident. We disagree with Firestone that this case requires a double jeopardy analysis; we conclude that the issue is one of statutory interpretation.

"Statutory interpretation is a question of law reviewed de novo."7 When a statute is unambiguous it should be given its plain meaning.8 "[A] court should normally presume that a legislature did not intend multiple punishments for the same offense absent a clear expression of legislative intent to the contrary."9 Criminal statutes must be "strictly construed and resolved in favor of the defendant."10

Firestone was...

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31 practice notes
  • Jackson v. State, Nos. 53632
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • December 6, 2012
    ...States v. McLaughlin, 164 F.3d 1, 7–8 (D.C.Cir.1998). Our review is de novo as to both the statutory construction, Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 16, 83 P.3d 279, 281 (2004) (whether leaving three victims at the scene of an accident constituted one offense or three presents a statutory co......
  • Quisano v. State, No. 66816.
    • United States
    • February 18, 2016
    ...1033, 102 P.3d 588, 590 (2004) ("We must attribute the plain meaning to a statute that is not ambiguous.") (citing Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 16, 83 P.3d 279, 281 (2004) ). Upon a finding of ambiguity, the court's task then becomes to assess the intent of the drafter, not to rewrite t......
  • State v. Stone, No. 11–0519.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 21, 2012
    ...under Massachusetts statute “is the act of leaving the scene of the accident, not the number of accident victims[ ]”); Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 83 P.3d 279, 282 (2004) (holding that violation of applicable Nevada statute “does not depend on the number of people injured....Since ther......
  • Ibarra v. State, No. 69617
    • United States
    • Nevada Court of Appeals of Nevada
    • November 8, 2016
    ...or the words are used in an ambiguous way. See State v. Catanio, 120 Nev. 1030, 1033, 102 P.3d 588, 590 (2004) (citing Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 16, 83 P.3d 279, 281 (2004) ("We must attribute the plain meaning to a statute that is not ambiguous."); see also Antonin Scalia & Bryan A.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • Jackson v. State, Nos. 53632
    • United States
    • Nevada Supreme Court of Nevada
    • December 6, 2012
    ...States v. McLaughlin, 164 F.3d 1, 7–8 (D.C.Cir.1998). Our review is de novo as to both the statutory construction, Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 16, 83 P.3d 279, 281 (2004) (whether leaving three victims at the scene of an accident constituted one offense or three presents a statutory co......
  • Quisano v. State, No. 66816.
    • United States
    • February 18, 2016
    ...1033, 102 P.3d 588, 590 (2004) ("We must attribute the plain meaning to a statute that is not ambiguous.") (citing Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 16, 83 P.3d 279, 281 (2004) ). Upon a finding of ambiguity, the court's task then becomes to assess the intent of the drafter, not to rewrite t......
  • State v. Stone, No. 11–0519.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 21, 2012
    ...under Massachusetts statute “is the act of leaving the scene of the accident, not the number of accident victims[ ]”); Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 83 P.3d 279, 282 (2004) (holding that violation of applicable Nevada statute “does not depend on the number of people injured....Since ther......
  • Ibarra v. State, No. 69617
    • United States
    • Nevada Court of Appeals of Nevada
    • November 8, 2016
    ...or the words are used in an ambiguous way. See State v. Catanio, 120 Nev. 1030, 1033, 102 P.3d 588, 590 (2004) (citing Firestone v. State, 120 Nev. 13, 16, 83 P.3d 279, 281 (2004) ("We must attribute the plain meaning to a statute that is not ambiguous."); see also Antonin Scalia & Bryan A.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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