State v. Beavers, 98-113.

Decision Date26 October 1999
Docket NumberNo. 98-113.,98-113.
PartiesSTATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Ronald BEAVERS, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Carl Jensen, Attorney at Law, Great Falls, Montana, For Appellant.

Hon. Joseph P. Mazurek, Attorney General; Jennifer Anders, Assistant Attorney General; Helena, Montana, Brant Light, Cascade County Attorney; Susan Weber; Deputy County Attorney; Great Falls, Montana, For Respondent.

Justice JIM REGNIER delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Ronald Beavers was charged in the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, with resisting arrest and criminal endangerment. He pled guilty to resisting arrest, and a jury found him guilty of criminal endangerment. Beavers appeals his conviction of criminal endangerment. We affirm.

¶ 2 Our decision is based on the following issues:

¶ 3 1. Did the District Court err when it refused to instruct the jury that reckless driving is a lesser included offense of criminal endangerment?

¶ 4 2. Did the District Court violate Beavers' constitutional right when it did not allow him to cross-examine the State's witness about reckless driving?

¶ 5 3. Did the District Court err when it did not allow Beavers to argue an alternative theory that he committed reckless driving, even if it is not a lesser included offense of criminal endangerment?

¶ 6 4. Did the District Court violate Beavers' constitutional protection against double jeopardy when it arraigned him after the jury was empaneled and sworn?

¶ 7 5. Did the District Court err when, under the doctrine of res gestae, it admitted evidence of inflammatory statements made by the passenger in Beavers' car and evidence of Beavers' act of resisting arrest?

¶ 8 6. Did the District Court err when it admitted evidence of Beavers' felony warrant and his classification as an escape risk?

¶ 9 7. Did the District Court err when it admitted photographs of Beavers' vehicle?

¶ 10 8. Did the District Court commit cumulative error requiring a reversal of Beavers' conviction?

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

¶ 11 Ronald Beavers was stopped for speeding on the evening of December 7, 1996, at approximately 7:00 p.m. The police officer informed Beavers that his vehicle was identified as being involved in a hit-and-run accident earlier that day. The officer asked Beavers to produce a registration, license, and proof of insurance for the vehicle. Beavers could not produce any of these, so he gave the officer an identification card. In response to the officer's request, the passenger in Beavers' car, Geneva White Beavers, became verbally abusive to the officer.

¶ 12 When the officer returned to the patrol car to conduct a routine check on Beavers, he learned that an active warrant was outstanding for Beavers' arrest. He approached Beavers' vehicle a second time and informed him of the warrant. The officer instructed Beavers to get out of the car. Instead, Beavers started the engine and drove away, spraying the officer with gravel.

¶ 13 A pursuit ensued and two patrol cars drove behind Beavers. The record indicates that Beavers drove in excessive speeds through a residential neighborhood and traveled around corners without slowing down. Road conditions were snow-packed and icy. At a busy thoroughfare, Beavers ran a stop sign and almost collided with a truck. A pedestrian crossing the street had to jump out of Beavers' way to avoid being hit. After several minutes, one of the officers pulled his patrol car in front of Beavers. Beavers' vehicle collided with the back end of the patrol car twice. The patrol car fishtailed and the officer hit his head inside the car. When the patrol car stopped, Beavers was boxed in by another patrol car positioned behind him.

¶ 14 The officers immediately exited their cars with their guns drawn. Beavers did not comply with the officers' instructions to get out of the car. Instead, Beavers appeared to rummage around in his vehicle. He yelled obscenities to the police officers and the words, "Shoot me!" Finally, one of the officers aimed pepper spray through the opening of Beavers' car window. The officers then opened the car door and grabbed Beavers, who was kicking and screaming.

¶ 15 On December 26, 1996, Beavers was charged in the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, with felony criminal endangerment for "failing to observe posted speed and traffic signs while driving a vehicle in an erratic manner through residential areas and/or ramming a police vehicle." He also was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest for "prevent[ing] or attempt[ing] to prevent [o]fficers ... from effecting an arrest by using or threatening to use physical force or violence against said officers." The information erroneously alleged that Beavers committed both offenses on June 22, 1996.

¶ 16 On January 14, 1997, Beavers was arraigned on the information and entered pleas of not guilty. A trial was scheduled for August 25, 1997. On August 18, 1997, the State filed an amended information to reflect the accurate date of the alleged offenses. Beavers pled guilty to the resisting arrest charge the morning of August 25, 1997, before trial, and indicated his decision to proceed to trial on the criminal endangerment charge. Voir dire was conducted, the jury was selected and sworn, and the trial was adjourned for lunch. After lunch, outside the presence of the jury, the District Court formally arraigned Beavers on the amended charge of criminal endangerment, and Beavers formally entered a plea of not guilty.

¶ 17 During trial, the District Court refused to allow Beavers to argue that he committed the crime of reckless driving and not criminal endangerment, and similarly refused to instruct the jury that reckless driving is a lesser included offense of criminal endangerment. The District Court also did not allow Beavers to cross-examine the arresting police officer regarding the existence of a reckless driving charge. The District Court overruled Beavers' objections to statements that Geneva White Beavers made to the police officer, his objections to entering into evidence his plea of guilty to resisting arrest, his objections to admitting evidence of his felony warrant and classification as an escape risk, and his objections to admitting photographs of his vehicle.

¶ 18 The jury found Beavers guilty of criminal endangerment. The District Court sentenced him to ten years at the Montana State Prison with five years suspended for criminal endangerment to run concurrently with a sentence of six months in the county jail for resisting arrest.

¶ 19 Beavers appeals his conviction and argues that the District Court committed reversible error.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 20 Our standard of review of a district court's discretionary rulings in a criminal case is abuse of discretion. See State v. Sullivan (1994), 266 Mont. 313, 324, 880 P.2d 829, 836

. We give broad discretion to a district court in formulating jury instructions.

See State v. Goulet (1997), 283 Mont. 38, 41, 938 P.2d 1330, 1332 (citing State v. Ross (1995), 269 Mont. 347, 358, 889 P.2d 161, 167). We also give broad discretion to a district court to limit the scope of cross-examination to those issues it determines are relevant to the trial. See Sullivan, 266 Mont. at 323,

880 P.2d at 836. In regard to evidentiary matters, it is within the district court's discretion to determine whether or not evidence is relevant and admissible. See State v. Crist (1992), 253 Mont. 442, 445, 833 P.2d 1052, 1054. Absent a showing of an abuse of discretion, we will not overturn a district court's determinations on evidentiary matters. See Crist, 253 Mont. at 445,

833 P.2d at 1054.

¶ 21 A district court's decision to deny defendant's motion to dismiss on the basis of double jeopardy is a question of law. Our standard of review of a district court's conclusion of law is whether the court's interpretation of the law is correct. See State v. Barker (1993), 260 Mont. 85, 88, 858 P.2d 360, 362

(citing Steer, Inc. v. Department of Revenue (1990), 245 Mont. 470, 474-75, 803 P.2d 601, 603).

ISSUE 1

¶ 22 Did the District Court err when it refused to instruct the jury that reckless driving is a lesser included offense of criminal endangerment?

¶ 23 It is a fundamental rule that a criminal defendant is entitled to jury instructions that cover every issue or theory having support in the evidence. See State v. Gopher (1981), 194 Mont. 227, 229, 633 P.2d 1195, 1196

. Under Montana law, a defendant is entitled to a jury instruction on a lesser included offense when one of the parties requests it and when the record contains evidence from which the jury could rationally find the defendant guilty of the lesser offense and acquit of the greater. See State v. Howell, 1998 MT 20, ¶ 19, 287 Mont. 268, ¶ 19, 954 P.2d 1102, ¶ 19(citing § 46-16-607(2), MCA; State v. Castle (1997), 285 Mont. 363, 948 P.2d 688). However, in order for the District Court to instruct the jury on a lesser included offense, the offense must actually constitute an included offense of the crime charged. See State v. Martinez (1998), 291 Mont. 306, 309, 968 P.2d 705, 707; see also, State v. Smith (1996), 276 Mont. 434, 443, 916 P.2d 773, 778; State v. Steffes (1994), 269 Mont. 214, 232, 887 P.2d 1196, 1207; State v. Fisch (1994), 266 Mont. 520, 522, 881 P.2d 626, 628.

¶ 24 Beavers argues that he was entitled to have the jury instructed that reckless driving is a lesser included offense of criminal endangerment. In his Proposed Instruction No. 2, he requested the District Court to instruct the jury: "In the event you find the defendant not guilty of Criminal Endangerment, you must then consider the lesser included offense of Reckless Driving." In his Proposed Instructions Nos. 4, 5, and 6, Beavers requested the District Court to instruct the jury of the elements of reckless driving.

¶ 25 Whether a particular offense can be considered...

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