Phoenix City Prosecutor v. Lowery, 120318 AZSC, CV-18-0101-PR

Docket Nº:CV-18-0101-PR
Opinion Judge:GOULD JUSTICE.
Party Name:Phoenix City Prosecutor, Petitioner/Appellant, v. The Honorable Laura Lowery, Respondent Judge, Claudette Craig, Respondent/Real Party in Interest.
Attorney:Amy B. Offenberg (argued), Assistant Phoenix City Prosecutor, Phoenix, Attorney for Phoenix City Prosecutor Tracey Westerhausen, Lawrence I. Kazan, Gregory M. Zamora (argued), Debus, Kazan & Westerhausen, Ltd., Phoenix, Attorneys for Claudette Craig Bruce Washburn, Scottsdale City Attorney, Ken F...
Judge Panel:JUSTICE GOULD authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES and JUSTICES PELANDER, TIMMER, BOLICK, and LOPEZ and JUDGE EPPICH joined.
Case Date:December 03, 2018
Court:Supreme Court of Arizona
 
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Phoenix City Prosecutor, Petitioner/Appellant,

v.

The Honorable Laura Lowery, Respondent Judge,

Claudette Craig, Respondent/Real Party in Interest.

No. CV-18-0101-PR

Supreme Court of Arizona

December 3, 2018

Special Action from the City of Phoenix Municipal Court The Honorable Laura Lowery No. 100050574

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable Michael D. Gordon, Judge No. LC2016-000472

Opinion of the Court of Appeals, Division One 244 Ariz. 308 (App. 2018)

Amy B. Offenberg (argued), Assistant Phoenix City Prosecutor, Phoenix, Attorney for Phoenix City Prosecutor

Tracey Westerhausen, Lawrence I. Kazan, Gregory M. Zamora (argued), Debus, Kazan & Westerhausen, Ltd., Phoenix, Attorneys for Claudette Craig

Bruce Washburn, Scottsdale City Attorney, Ken Flint, Assistant City Prosecutor, Scottsdale, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae City of Scottsdale

Mikel Steinfeld (argued), Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, Phoenix, Attorney for Amicus Curiae Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice

JUSTICE GOULD authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE BALES and JUSTICES PELANDER, TIMMER, BOLICK, and LOPEZ and JUDGE EPPICH [*] joined.

OPINION

GOULD JUSTICE.

¶1 In this case, we address the crime exception to the anti-marital fact privilege. A.R.S. § 13-4062(1). We hold that when a defendant commits a crime against his or her spouse and is charged for that crime, the crime exception to the anti-marital fact privilege allows the witness-spouse to testify regarding not only that charge, but also any charges arising from the same unitary event.

I.

¶2 The City of Phoenix ("the City") alleges that H.C., the husband of Real Party in Interest Claudette Craig, called the police to report that Craig had been drinking and was attempting to leave their residence. H.C. tried to prevent Craig from driving by parking one of their cars behind her mini-van. Craig backed into the parked car, damaging both vehicles, which were jointly-owned by H.C. and Craig. Craig was charged with one count of criminal damage, a domestic violence offense under A.R.S. §§ 13-1602 and -3601(A), and three counts of driving under the influence ("DUI") under A.R.S. §§ 28-1381(A)(1) ("impaired to the slightest degree"), -1381(A)(2) (blood "alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more"), and -1382(A)(1) ("extreme influence of intoxicating liquor").

¶3 Before trial, Craig moved to preclude H.C. from testifying about the DUI charges and to sever those charges from the criminal damage charge. Both motions were based on Craig's invocation of the anti-marital fact privilege. The municipal court granted Craig's motions.

¶4 The City petitioned the superior court for special action relief, arguing that H.C. could testify about the DUI charges based on the crime exception to the anti-marital fact privilege. See § 13-4062(1). The superior court accepted review but denied relief. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that severance was proper because the anti-marital fact privilege precluded H.C. from testifying about the DUI charges. Phx. City Prosecutor v. Lowery, 244 Ariz. 308, 310 ¶ 1 (App. 2018).

¶5 We granted review because the scope of the anti-marital fact privilege and the crime exception are recurring issues of statewide importance. We have jurisdiction pursuant to article 6, section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 12-120.24.

II.

¶6 We review the municipal court's ruling on the applicability of the anti-marital fact privilege for an abuse of discretion. See State v. Whitaker, 112 Ariz. 537, 542 (1975); see also State v. Cooperman, 232 Ariz. 347, 349 ¶ 7 (2013). "An error of law constitutes an abuse of discretion." State v. Cheatham, 240 Ariz. 1, 2 ¶ 6 (2016). We interpret statutes de novo. State v. Boyston, 231 Ariz. 539, 543 ¶ 14 (2013).

A.

¶7 In Arizona, "[a] person shall not be examined as a witness" in the case of "[a] husband for or against his wife without her consent, nor a wife for or against her husband without his consent, as to events occurring during the marriage." § 13-4062(1). This testimonial privilege, known as the anti-marital fact privilege, enables a defendant-spouse in a...

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