State v. Aldrich, No. 82-211

CourtSupreme Court of New Hampshire
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
Citation466 A.2d 938,124 N.H. 43
Decision Date05 October 1983
Docket NumberNo. 82-211
PartiesThe STATE of New Hampshire v. Wayne ALDRICH.

Page 938

466 A.2d 938
124 N.H. 43
The STATE of New Hampshire
v.
Wayne ALDRICH.
No. 82-211.
Supreme Court of New Hampshire.
Oct. 5, 1983.

Page 939

[124 N.H. 45] Gregory H. Smith, Atty. Gen. (Gregory W. Swope, Atty., Concord, on the brief and orally), for the State.

Law Offices of Robert V. Johnson, II, Concord (Anthony M. Ambriano, Concord, on the brief and orally), for defendant.

DOUGLAS, Justice.

The defendant, Wayne Aldrich, appeals his conviction in Superior Court (Cann, J.) for escape from official custody, RSA 642:6. The issues presented for our review are whether the State may properly charge the defendant with "knowingly" escaping from official custody, when the escape statute itself (RSA 642: 6) [124 N.H. 46] does not prescribe a culpable mental state, and whether the admission of certain inadmissible hearsay evidence was harmless error. For the reasons which follow, we affirm the defendant's conviction.

In January 1980, the defendant was sentenced to concurrent terms of two-and-one-half to five years in the State prison for two burglaries. Pursuant to RSA 651:25, I (Supp.1981), he was transferred to the Community Correction Center (half-way house) in Concord in September 1981, in preparation for his release from custody after a minimum of ninety days.

On October 13, 1981, the defendant left the half-way house at approximately 10:30 p.m. to work at the Concord Litho Company, which was located three miles away. He was employed there on the midnight-to-8:00 a.m. shift. According to a logbook maintained at the half-way house, which was admitted into evidence at the defendant's trial over his objection and exception, the defendant failed to report to work and was reported "escaped." The defendant was arrested by Peterborough police officers at an apartment in that town at 8:00 p.m. on October 14, 1981, twelve hours after the defendant's work shift ended and he was due to return to the half-way house. The police officers testified that the defendant appeared to be intoxicated at the time of his arrest.

Page 940

The defendant was charged with escape, a class B felony, see RSA 642:6, by an indictment which alleged that he

"did knowingly escape from official custody at the Community Correction Center of the New Hampshire State Prison, having been confined at said Prison by Order of the Merrimack County Superior Court on January 28, 1980 in that said Wayne Aldrich did not report for work on said date when granted temporary release for that purpose and did not return to the Community Correction Center at the appointed time ...."

(Emphasis added.) "Knowingly" is defined in our Criminal Code as follows: "A person acts knowingly with respect to conduct or to a circumstance that is a material element of an offense when he is aware that his conduct is of such nature or that such circumstances exist." RSA 626:2, II(b) (emphasis added).

The defendant moved before trial to quash the indictment on the ground that the statute defining the offense of escape, RSA 642:6, does not specify a particular culpable mental state, and that in the absence of a statutorily specified mental state the State was obligated to prove that he acted "purposely," the highest culpable mental state. "Purposely" is statutorily defined as follows: "A person acts purposely with respect to a material element of an offense when his [124 N.H. 47] conscious object is to cause the result or engage in the conduct that comprises the element." RSA 626:2, II(a) (emphasis added). The court denied the motion.

At his trial in April 1982, the defendant's defense was that he was so intoxicated after he left the half-way house that he could not have "knowingly" escaped from official custody. See RSA 626:4. The jury apparently did not believe the defendant because it found him guilty of escape. He was sentenced to one-and-one-half to three years in the State prison, to be served consecutively to the unexpired terms of the burglary sentences. See RSA 642:6, IV (Supp.1981).

RSA 642:6 defines escape as follows: "A person is guilty of an offense if he escapes from official custody." Even though the statute specifies no culpable mental state, a prosecution for escape, which is either a class A or a class B felony, depending upon whether force is used during the commission of the offense, see RSA 642:6, III (Supp.1981), may not be sustained in the absence of proof of a mens rea. RSA 626:2, I of the Criminal Code provides that "[a] person is guilty of ... a felony ... only if he acts purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently, as the law may require, with respect to each material element of the offense."

We do not read this provision as vesting prosecutors with unfettered discretion to charge any one of the four culpable mental states, depending upon the circumstances of a particular case, wherever a criminal statute fails to prescribe a specific mental state. Such an interpretation, for instance, would leave prosecutors free to charge escape defendants criminally for acting "negligently," a mental state not even requiring awareness of the circumstances of the offense. See RSA 626:2, II(d). This interpretation would be broader than even the standard set forth in section 2.02(3) of the Model Penal Code, which provides: "When the culpability sufficient to establish a material element of an offense is not prescribed by law, such element...

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15 practice notes
  • State v. Lamy, No. 2008-189.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 8 Abril 2009
    ...look to the common law origins of the born alive rule and its meaning at the time the Criminal Code was enacted. Cf. State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 48, 466 A.2d 938 The born alive rule emerged in fourteenth century England as an evidentiary standard requiring observation of the child to pro......
  • State v. Lamy, 2008–189.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 8 Abril 2009
    ...look to the common law origins of the born alive rule and its meaning at the time the Criminal Code was enacted. Cf. State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 48, 466 A.2d 938 (1983).The born alive rule emerged in fourteenth century England as an evidentiary standard requiring observation of the child......
  • State v. Wong, Nos. 83-358
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 26 Octubre 1984
    ...Code that a proscribed felony must specify a culpable mental state recognized by the Code. RSA 626:2, I; see also State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 47, 466 A.2d 938, 940 Moreover, the argument that the State must prove both driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and criminal ......
  • State v. Pinder, No. 84-477
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 9 Mayo 1986
    ...318-B:2." The indictment was defective because it did not allege a culpable mental state or mens rea. RSA 626:2, I; see State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 466 A.2d 938 On July 24, 1984, some eleven months after the defendant's arrest, a second manufacturing indictment was returned against him. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • State v. Lamy, No. 2008-189.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 8 Abril 2009
    ...look to the common law origins of the born alive rule and its meaning at the time the Criminal Code was enacted. Cf. State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 48, 466 A.2d 938 The born alive rule emerged in fourteenth century England as an evidentiary standard requiring observation of the child to pro......
  • State v. Lamy, 2008–189.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 8 Abril 2009
    ...look to the common law origins of the born alive rule and its meaning at the time the Criminal Code was enacted. Cf. State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 48, 466 A.2d 938 (1983).The born alive rule emerged in fourteenth century England as an evidentiary standard requiring observation of the child......
  • State v. Wong, Nos. 83-358
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 26 Octubre 1984
    ...Code that a proscribed felony must specify a culpable mental state recognized by the Code. RSA 626:2, I; see also State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 47, 466 A.2d 938, 940 Moreover, the argument that the State must prove both driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and criminal ......
  • State v. Pinder, No. 84-477
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • 9 Mayo 1986
    ...318-B:2." The indictment was defective because it did not allege a culpable mental state or mens rea. RSA 626:2, I; see State v. Aldrich, 124 N.H. 43, 466 A.2d 938 On July 24, 1984, some eleven months after the defendant's arrest, a second manufacturing indictment was returned against him. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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