State v. Bachicha

Decision Date31 January 1991
Docket NumberNo. 11865,11865
PartiesSTATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Guadalupe BACHICHA, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico
OPINION

DONNELLY, Judge.

Do defendant's convictions of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon constitute lesser included offenses of the greater offense of false imprisonment by use of a firearm that merge for the purposes of sentencing? We hold under the facts of this case that the jury could properly convict defendant of the offenses of false imprisonment upon his wife, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law, and the separate offenses of aggravated assault with a firearm upon the same victims, because there was separate evidence of multiple aggravated assaults upon each victim. The following opinion is substituted for the prior opinion of this court. We remand for resentencing, in accordance with the habitual offender sentencing statute, NMSA 1978, Section 31-18-17 (Repl.Pamp.1987).

The events which gave rise to the charges against defendant grew out of the breakup of his marriage. Defendant's estranged wife, Pauline, returned to the house where he was living in order to retrieve her belongings. She was accompanied by her brother, Fred Santillanes, and her sister, Kathy LaFrance. Defendant admitted them into the house. While defendant's wife was in the bedroom with her sister, packing her clothes, defendant produced a .22 caliber rifle and ordered his brother-in-law into the bedroom with the two women. When defendant and his brother-in-law entered the bedroom, defendant ordered all three victims, at gunpoint, to stand against the wall on the far side of the room.

Defendant's wife attempted to escape through a door leading to the outside. Defendant caught her by the hair and physically forced her to the floor while holding the rifle pointed at her head. When defendant's brother-in-law sought to move away from the wall to assist his sister, defendant directed the gun at him, ordered him back against the wall, and stated that if he did not move back he would be shot. Suddenly, defendant aimed the rifle at his sister-in-law and shot her. As defendant was reloading the rifle, the brother-in-law grabbed the barrel of the gun, and a struggle for the weapon ensued. During the struggle, defendant kept his finger on the trigger and attempted to point the rifle at his brother-in-law. The brother-in-law succeeded in wrestling the weapon away from defendant's control, and defendant fled the scene.

As a result of this incident, defendant was convicted, following a jury trial, of three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, contrary to NMSA 1978, Sections 30-3-2 (Repl.Pamp.1984) and 31-18-16 (Repl.Pamp.1987); one count of aggravated battery with a firearm, contrary to NMSA 1978, Sections 30-3-5(C) (Repl.Pamp.1984) and 31-18-16; three counts of false imprisonment, contrary to NMSA 1978, Sections 30-4-3 (Repl.Pamp.1984) and 31-18-16; and one count of battery, a petty misdemeanor, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-3-4 (Repl.Pamp.1984). Defendant was acquitted of three counts of assault with intent to kill with a firearm.

The trial court sentenced defendant to serve consecutive terms of imprisonment on each count, with the exception of the charges of aggravated assault and aggravated battery upon his sister-in-law; the latter counts were ordered to run concurrently, one with the other, but consecutive to the other counts. The court also ordered that Counts 1 through 8 run consecutively to the sentence imposed under the habitual offender sentencing statute.

ISSUE AS TO MERGER

Defendant argues that the trial court erred by not merging each of his convictions of aggravated assault upon the three victims with his three convictions of false imprisonment with a firearm. He also contends that the state failed to prove by separate evidence that he committed the offenses of aggravated assault as discrete acts, distinct from the charges of false imprisonment upon each victim. Defendant posits that the assaultive acts, consisting of threats or menacing conduct with a firearm, were the same acts which constituted the basis for the restraining or confining of each of the victims against his will. Defendant further argues that the pointing of the gun and the victims' confinement that resulted from the pointing of the rifle consisted of a single continuous act, and that without the coercive effect of assaulting the victims with the weapon he would not have been able to effectuate the offense of false imprisonment.

We disagree with defendant's assertion that each of his convictions of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against three victims merged into the offenses of false imprisonment. Merger does not occur when different evidence is required to prove the two offenses. State v. Muise, 103 N.M. 382, 707 P.2d 1192 (Ct.App.1985). See also State v. Williams, 105 N.M. 214, 730 P.2d 1196 (Ct.App.1986); State v. Singleton, 102 N.M. 66, 691 P.2d 67 (Ct.App.1984). As observed in Muise:

To determine whether one offense "necessarily involves" another offense, the definitions of the two crimes are examined to determine whether the elements are the same. State v. Sandoval, 90 N.M. 260, 561 P.2d 1353 (Ct.App.1977). An included offense does not have any element not included in the greater offense so that it is impossible to commit the greater offense without necessarily committing the included offense. State v. Garcia, 100 N.M. 120, 666 P.2d 1267 (Ct.App.1983). However, this determination is not made in the abstract. "[W]e no longer consider the statutory offenses in a vacuum but instead regard the offenses in light of the facts before us." State v. Brecheisen, 101 N.M. 38, 677 P.2d 1074, 1077 (Ct.App.), cert. denied, 101 N.M. 11, 677 P.2d 624 (1984); see also State v. DeMary, 99 N.M. 177, 655 P.2d 1021 (1982).

Muise, 103 N.M. at 392, 707 P.2d at 1202.

Defendant contends that his conduct, resulting in his convictions of false imprisonment against each victim, constituted a single transaction or event as it related to each victim. Defendant concedes that the "same transaction" test is no longer applied to merger cases in New Mexico. State v. Tanton, 88 N.M. 333, 540 P.2d 813 (1975); State v. Williams. Although there is evidence indicating that the false imprisonment of each of the victims was an ongoing offense, see State v. Tsethlikai, 109 N.M. 371, 785 P.2d 282 (Ct.App.1989), there is evidence from which the jury could properly find that defendant committed multiple acts of aggravated assault against each victim by specifically directing and redirecting the rifle at each of them, accompanied by verbal threats, while falsely imprisoning each of them. Thus, defendant's assaultive acts, under the record before us, did not constitute a single continuous offense of aggravated assault upon the three victims so as to merge into the offense of false imprisonment. See State v. Williams (where different evidence underlies the two offenses, merger is not required). Cf. State v. Pedroncelli, 100 N.M. 678, 675 P.2d 127 (1984) (trier of fact could determine whether successive takings constituted single or multiple offenses of larceny).

The doctrine of merger is an aspect of double jeopardy. State v. Gammil, 108 N.M. 208, 769 P.2d 1299 (Ct.App.1989). It involves a determination of whether more than one offense has occurred so as to preclude imposition of multiple punishment. Id. Our supreme court described the proper method for analysis "in the light of the evidence" in DeMary, holding that "the specific elements of [the crimes] ... must initially be construed in the light of the evidence." Id., 99 N.M. at 179, 655 P.2d at 1023. As observed in State v. Ellenberger, 96 N.M. 287, 290, 629 P.2d 1216, 1219 (1981), resolution of a claim of double jeopardy "is primarily one of legislative intent." See also State v. Edwards, 102 N.M. 413, 415, 696 P.2d 1006, 1008 (Ct.App.1984). "Multiple punishments run afoul of the double jeopardy clause only where the Legislature has not authorized multiple punishments." Whether one offense is necessarily involved in a greater offense is not a "constitutional litmus [test], but [is] merely [an aid] for determining legislative intent." Ellenberger, 96 N.M. at 290, 629 P.2d at 1219.

The offense of aggravated assault requires proof that defendant threatened or engaged in menacing conduct with a deadly weapon toward a victim, causing the victim to believe he or she was about to be in danger of receiving an immediate battery. State v. Manus, 93 N.M. 95, 597 P.2d 280 (1979), overruled on other grounds, Sells v. State, 98 N.M. 786, 653 P.2d 162 (1982); Sec. 30-3-2. Proof of general criminal intent is also a necessary element of the offense of aggravated assault. State v. Cruz, 86 N.M. 455, 525 P.2d 382 (Ct.App.1974). See also SCRA 1986, 14-305. As observed in State v. Ross, 104 N.M. 23, 715 P.2d 471 (Ct.App.1986), under the included offense concept, a greater offense cannot be committed without also committing the lesser offense. State v. Omar-Muhammad, 102 N.M. 274, 694 P.2d 922 (1985).

The crime of false imprisonment requires proof that defendant restrained or confined the victim against his or her will, under circumstances where the defendant knew that he had no authority to restrain or confine the victim. See State v. Clark, 80 N.M. 340, 455 P.2d 844 (1969); Sec. 30-4-3; see also SCRA 1986, 14-401; State v. Swafford, 109 N.M. 132, 782 P.2d 385 (Ct.App.1989).

The offense of aggravated assault can be perpetrated without confinement or restraint of the victim. Sec. 30-3-2. Similarly, the offense of false imprisonment can be perpetrated without committing the crime of aggravated assault, such as where a defendant by trick or false representations...

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