State v. Alejandro M., 010721 NMCA, A-1-CA-39004

Docket NºA-1-CA-39004
Opinion JudgeBRIANA H. ZAMORA, JUDGE.
Party NameSTATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ALEJANDRO M., Child-Appellant.
AttorneyHector H. Balderas, Attorney General Maris Veidemanis, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Appellee. Liane E. Kerr Albuquerque, NM for Appellant.
Judge PanelWE CONCUR: J. MILES HANISEE, Chief Judge, JACQUELINE R. MEDINA, Judge.
Case DateJanuary 07, 2021
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

ALEJANDRO M., Child-Appellant.

No. A-1-CA-39004

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

January 7, 2021

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TAOS COUNTY Jeffrey A. Shannon, District Judge.

Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Maris Veidemanis, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM for Appellee.

Liane E. Kerr Albuquerque, NM for Appellant.

OPINION

BRIANA H. ZAMORA, JUDGE.

{¶1} In this interlocutory appeal, Alejandro M. (Child) contends that the district court erred in denying his emergency motion to quash or dismiss the State's notice of intent to seek adult sanctions against him. The district court denied the motion, finding that the COVID-19 pandemic constituted an "exceptional circumstance" under Rule 10-213(D) NMRA, justifying an extension of the time limit for determining probable cause at a preliminary hearing. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

{¶2} The State charged Child with shooting at or from a motor vehicle, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-3-8(B) (1993); aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-3-5 (A), (C) (1969); and two counts of tampering with evidence, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-22-5(A) (2003). On March 26, 2020, the State filed a notice of intent to seek adjudication of Child as a youthful offender and to invoke an adult sentence and a preliminary hearing was set for April 6, 2020. Child was permitted to appear by remote means in accordance with social-distancing best practices to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. Due to technical difficulties, Child appeared by phone rather than by video during the preliminary hearing, and because Child was not visible, the prosecution's witness was unable to identify him. There is no indication that Child ever notified the State or the district court that he would be unable to appear by video. Defense counsel raised identification as a contested issue for the first time during the preliminary hearing. In response, the district court continued the hearing and required Child to appear in person at the next hearing to provide the State with an opportunity to identify Child. The State requested a one-week continuance, but defense counsel asked for a two-week continuance. Accommodating Child's request, the court scheduled the hearing for April 28, 2020, thirty-three days after the State filed its notice of intent to proceed against Child as a youthful offender.

{¶3} One day prior to the April 28, 2020 hearing, Child filed an emergency motion to quash or dismiss the State's notice of intent to seek adult sanctions because a probable cause determination had not been made within thirty days after the State filed the notice. On April 28, 2020, the district court denied Child's motion. The district court found that the COVID-19 pandemic constituted an exceptional circumstance justifying extending the time limit under Rule 10-213(D). Child was identified during the hearing that day, and the district court found that probable cause existed. The district court then granted Child's motion to certify the denial of Child's motion to quash to this Court as an interlocutory appeal.

DISCUSSION

{¶4} Resolution of this appeal turns upon whether the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an "exceptional circumstance[]" under Rule 10-213(D), such that the district court was justified in extending the deadline for making a probable cause determination under Rule 10-213.1 Child argues that the district court erred in denying Child's motion to quash because the COVID-19 pandemic was not an "exceptional circumstance" justifying extension of time under Rule 10-213(D), and further argues that the state had an affirmative obligation to request a hearing within the thirty-day timeline. We disagree.

{¶5} We review a district court's interpretation of rules of procedure de novo. State v. Stephen F., 2006-NMSC-030, ¶ 7, 140 N.M. 24, 139 P.3d 184 (applying de novo review to interpretation of children's court rules). However, we review a district court's decision to deny or grant a continuance or extension under an abuse of discretion standard. See State v. Anthony L., 2019-NMCA-003, ¶¶ 7-8, 16, 433 P.3d 347 (holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting an extension to commence a child's adjudication under the Children's Code); see also Vigil v. Fogerson, 2006-NMCA-010, ¶ 56, 138 N.M. 822, 126 P.3d 1186 (noting that we consider relief for exceptional circumstances to be an equitable remedy, which we review for an abuse of discretion). An abuse of discretion occurs when the ruling is "clearly untenable or not justified by reason." State v. Candelaria, 2008-NMCA-120, ¶ 12, 144 N.M. 797, 192 P.3d 792 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the district court's decision. Id.

{¶6} Rule 10-213(B) provides:

B. Probable cause determination

(1) Timing. Unless the child waives the right to a probable cause determination, such a determination shall be made within ten (10) days from the last to occur of the following:

(a) the filing of a notice of intent to seek adult sanctions; or

(b) the filing of a peremptory election to excuse a judge under Rule 10-162 NMRA.

(2) Extensions of time. The children's court, for good cause shown, may extend the time for a probable cause determination, provided that such time shall not be extended to more than thirty (30) days from the last to occur of Subparagraph (B)(1)(a) or (b) under this rule.

Rule 10-213(D) provides, "Absent a showing...

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