State v. Garcia, A-1-CA-38525

Citation517 P.3d 281
Case DateMarch 10, 2022
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

517 P.3d 281

STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Felicia A. GARCIA, Felicia Garcia, a/k/a Felicia Ann Garcia, Defendant-Appellee.

No. A-1-CA-38525

Court of Appeals of New Mexico.

Filing Date: March 10, 2022
Certiorari Denied, April 18, 2022, No.

Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General, Van Snow, Assistant Attorney General Santa Fe, NM, for Appellant

Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Santa Fe, NM, Mark A. Peralta-Silva, Assistant, Appellate Defender, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellee

MEDINA, Judge.

517 P.3d 282

{1} The State appeals the district court's order granting Defendant's motion, filed before trial, pursuant to Rule 5-601(B) NMRA (1999) (amended as Rule 5-601(C) NMRA ), and State v. Foulenfont , 1995-NMCA-028, 119 N.M. 788, 895 P.2d 1329, to dismiss one count of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-31-23(E) (2011, amended 2021).1 The State argues that the district court erred in dismissing the charge because the district court (1) incorrectly determined that Section 30-31-23 does not define a unit of prosecution, and (2) erred in determining there was insufficient indicia of distinctness between the two acts because the State had yet to present evidence at trial. We reverse.


{2} Defendant stipulated to the following facts set forth in the criminal complaint for purposes of her motion to dismiss. Defendant was a passenger in a vehicle that was the subject of a traffic stop. While speaking to the driver of the vehicle, the officer noticed Defendant was not wearing her seatbelt. Upon request, Defendant provided the officer with her name and other identifying information. A subsequent records check revealed an outstanding warrant for Defendant's arrest. During a search incident to arrest, the officer found a clear bag containing a substance that tested positive for heroin in Defendant's purse. Shortly thereafter, during an inventory search of the vehicle, a bag containing a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine and a clear glass pipe were found in the outer pocket of the center console near the driver's seat.

{3} Defendant admitted that both bags belonged to her. Relevant to this appeal, an indictment charged Defendant with two counts of possession of a controlled substance, contrary to Section 30-31-23, the first count for possession of heroin and the second for possession of methamphetamine. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the second count. In support of her motion to dismiss, Defendant argued that that statute does not allow multiple charges for one act of possession of controlled substances and there was insufficient evidence to show two distinct acts of possession. After hearing argument by the parties, the district court dismissed the second count of possession of a controlled substance. The district court found, in part, (1) " Section 30-31-23 does not define the unit of prosecution"; (2) Defendant's acts of possession were not sufficiently distinct to support two charges; (3) the rule of lenity applies; and (4) Defendant could only be charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance. Pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 39-3-3(B)(1) (1972), the State appealed.


{4} The State argues that the district court erred in dismissing the second count of possession of a controlled substance because Section 30-31-23 defines the unit of prosecution as each controlled substance a defendant possesses. Defendant contends that the language of the statute is "insurmountably ambiguous," and therefore the rule of lenity should apply to our analysis.

{5} "The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, and Article II, Section 15 of the New Mexico Constitution each protect defendants against multiple punishments for the same offense." State v. Alvarez-Lopez , 2004-NMSC-030, ¶ 38, 136 N.M. 309, 98 P.3d 699 (citation omitted). When a defendant faces multiple punishments under the same statute, we apply a "unit of prosecution" analysis to determine "whether the Legislature intended punishment for...

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  • George Cheng v. Rabey, A-1-CA-39142
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 31, 2022
    ...only applies to statutes enacted on or after the effective date, or adopted after its own adoption." State v. Garcia, 2022-NMCA-051, ¶ 9, 517 P.3d 281, cert. denied (S-1-SC-39306); see § 12-2A-1(B). USRCA was enacted in 1997, and UORRA was enacted in 1975. Compare § 12-2A-1, with § 47-8-1. ......

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