People v. Mojica-Simental, No. 02SC44.

Docket NºNo. 02SC44.
Citation73 P.3d 15
Case DateJune 23, 2003
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

73 P.3d 15

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Petitioner,
v.
Miguel MOJICA-SIMENTAL, Respondent

No. 02SC44.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.

June 23, 2003.

As Modified on Denial of Rehearing July 21, 2003.


73 P.3d 17
G.F. Sandstrom, District Attorney, M. Katherine Howard, Deputy District Attorney, Pueblo, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner

David S. Kaplan, Colorado State Public Defender, Tracy C. Renner, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.

Justice MARTINEZ delivered the Opinion of the Court.

I. Introduction

We granted certiorari in this case to consider two issues: first, whether section 16-3-309(5), 6 C.R.S. (2002), which allows criminalistics laboratory reports to be admitted without the testimony of the lab technician, applies in a driving under the influence (DUI) case; and second, whether section 16-3-309(5) is constitutional. We determine that section 16-3-309(5) does apply in a DUI case and is constitutional on its face.

At the commencement of the jury trial, the county court ruled that blood test results would not be admitted without the testimony of a lab technician under section 16-3-309(5), reasoning that to allow the results would effectively shift the burden of proof to the defense. Further, the county court held that the statute was not applicable in a trial for a DUI charge. On appeal, the district court ruled that the statute applies to all criminal cases where laboratory tests are required. However, the district court further concluded that the statute is unconstitutional because it allows defendants to waive constitutional rights passively, without an affirmative, intelligent, and knowing waiver, thus depriving the defendant of his right to confrontation. The district court stated that, "[t]he legislature cannot make those rights contingent on affirmative action by the defendant."

II. Analysis

As we would not reach the question of the constitutionality of section 16-3-309(5) in this case unless it applies to the trial of DUI cases, we first address the statute's applicability. After determining that section 16-3-309(5) applies at a DUI trial, we next discuss the constitutionality of section 16-3-309(5). In our constitutional analysis, we begin by reviewing the district court's conclusion that section 16-3-309(5) is unconstitutional on its face. This inquiry is followed by a consideration of the defendant's argument that section 16-3-309(5) is unconstitutional as applied.

We hold that, on its face, section 16-3-309(5)'s provision, which requires a defendant to affirmatively request a lab technician's presence at trial, is an acceptable precondition to a defendant's exercise of his right to confrontation and is therefore not unconstitutional. A defendant's right to confrontation is not denied as he can preserve that right, pursuant to section 16-3-309, with minimal effort. Finally, we decide that the defendant's as applied challenge is not actually at issue because the statute has not yet been applied in this case.

A. Section 16-3-309(5) Is Applicable To A Driving Under The Influence Trial

Before we address any constitutional challenges to section 16-3-309(5), we must decide that it applies in the case before us, namely a DUI case. The trial court ruled that section 16-3-309(5) was inapplicable in a DUI case. The appellate court reversed that holding, stating that under the language of section 16-3-309(5), the section is applicable to all criminal cases where laboratory tests are required. We now affirm the district court's decision and hold that section 16-3-309(5) applies in a DUI trial.

In order to determine whether section 16-3-309(5) is applicable in a DUI trial, we must examine the language of section 16-3-309(5) and of the DUI statute, section 42-4-1301, 11 C.R.S. (2002). When interpreting statutes, our primary goal is to give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Smith, 971 P.2d 1056, 1058 (Colo.1999). We first look to the plain language; if the language is clear, our analysis need go no further. Id. When two statutes conflict, "we will favor a construction that avoids potential

73 P.3d 18
conflict between the relevant provisions." Id.

The two statutes in this case do not conflict. Section 42-4-1301 describes the procedures for administering tests to be used in DUI cases. Section 16-3-309(5) merely allows the results of such tests to be admitted "in the same manner and with the same force and effect as if the employee or technician of the criminalistics laboratory who accomplished the requested analysis, comparison, or identification had testified in person." § 16-3-309(5). Furthermore, section 42-4-1301 states that failure to comply with the regulations for administering the tests does not bar their admission, but goes only to the weight given to the test results. § 42-4-1301. Thus, section 42-4-1301 does not conflict with section 16-3-309(5)'s manner of admitting test results.

Section 42-4-1301 also guarantees a defendant the right to challenge the results of such tests. Again, however, section 16-3-309(5) does not conflict with section 42-4-1301's provisions as section 16-3-309(5) does not in any way proscribe such challenges.

While we favor a more specific provision over a general one when there is conflict between statutory provisions, in the absence of such a conflict, we give effect to both statutes. Smith, 971 P.2d at 1058. The statutes in this case do not conflict. Consequently, we hold that section 16-3-309(5) is applicable to the trial of a DUI case.

B. Section 16-3-309(5) is Facially Constitutional

Statutes are presumed to be constitutional. People v. Hickman, 988 P.2d 628, 634 (Colo.1999). A party challenging a statute's constitutionality has the burden of showing that the statute is unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. If there is more than one possible interpretation of the statute, we must adopt the constitutional construction. People v. McBurney, 750 P.2d 916, 920 (Colo.1988). We review the district court's determination that the statute is unconstitutional de novo. City of Greenwood Village v. Petitioners for Proposed City of Centennial, 3 P.3d 427, 440 (Colo.2000).

Section 16-3-309(5) allows for any report or finding of a criminalistics laboratory to be received into evidence with the same force as if the laboratory technician had testified in person. § 16-3-309.1 However, any party may request that the technician testify in person, "by notifying the witness and other party at least ten days before the date of such criminal trial." Id.

On its face, section 16-3-309(5) is constitutional. The right to confrontation is a fundamental right, but it is not a right without limit. Section 16-3-309(5) merely creates a precondition, that the defendant must request a technician's presence at least ten days before trial, which must be met to ensure such a witness's presence at trial. Thus, with minimal effort, a defendant can preserve the right to confrontation. Requiring a defendant to satisfy section 16-3-309(5)'s precondition does not shift the burden of proof away from the prosecution. We have required defendants to satisfy such conditions before. It is the prosecution that still must prove the elements of each charge beyond a reasonable doubt, whether it does so by subpoenaing the witness and presenting her at trial, or by simply introducing the lab report.

In sum, this statute seeks only to streamline the trial process by admitting a report without the testimony of the technician in cases where the parties do not feel that the technician's...

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24 practice notes
  • State v. Belvin, No. SC06-593.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 1, 2008
    ...case because he did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intentionally waive his fundamental right to confrontation. [People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15 (Colo.2003).] In Mojica-Simental, we stated in dicta that waiver of the right to confrontation must be voluntary, knowing, and intentional. ......
  • People v. Hinojas-Mendoza, Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645 (CO 7/28/2005), Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...subpoenaing the [technician] and presenting her at trial, or by simply introducing the lab report." People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15, 18 (Colo. 2003); see People v. Moses, 64 P.3d 904, 908 (Colo. App. 2002)("Forensic laboratory reports are admissible in criminal proceedings w......
  • Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, No. 05SC881.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • September 10, 2007
    ...statute does not violate the right to confrontation guaranteed by the United States and Colorado Constitutions. People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15 (Colo.2003). We explained in Mojica-Simental that while the right to confront one's accusers is a fundamental constitutional right, it is not......
  • People v. Hinojos-Mendoza, No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...subpoenaing the [technician] and presenting her at trial, or by simply introducing the lab report." People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15, 18 (Colo.2003); see People v. Moses, 64 P.3d 904, 908 (Colo.App.2002)("Forensic laboratory reports are admissible in criminal proceedings with......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • State v. Belvin, No. SC06-593.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 1, 2008
    ...case because he did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intentionally waive his fundamental right to confrontation. [People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15 (Colo.2003).] In Mojica-Simental, we stated in dicta that waiver of the right to confrontation must be voluntary, knowing, and intentional. ......
  • People v. Hinojas-Mendoza, Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645 (CO 7/28/2005), Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...either "by subpoenaing the [technician] and presenting her at trial, or by simply introducing the lab report." People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15, 18 (Colo. 2003); see People v. Moses, 64 P.3d 904, 908 (Colo. App. 2002)("Forensic laboratory reports are admissible in criminal proceedings ......
  • Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, No. 05SC881.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • September 10, 2007
    ...statute does not violate the right to confrontation guaranteed by the United States and Colorado Constitutions. People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15 (Colo.2003). We explained in Mojica-Simental that while the right to confront one's accusers is a fundamental constitutional right, it is not......
  • People v. Hinojos-Mendoza, No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...either "by subpoenaing the [technician] and presenting her at trial, or by simply introducing the lab report." People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15, 18 (Colo.2003); see People v. Moses, 64 P.3d 904, 908 (Colo.App.2002)("Forensic laboratory reports are admissible in criminal proceedings wit......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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