State v. McClain, 19891

Decision Date27 August 1985
Docket NumberNo. 19891,19891
Citation706 P.2d 603
PartiesSTATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Kristen Kay McCLAIN, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtUtah Supreme Court

David R. Daines, Christopher L. Daines, Logan, for defendant and appellant.

David L. Wilkinson, Atty. Gen., Dave Thompson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff and respondent.

HOWE, Justice:

Defendant appeals her conviction of issuing bad checks, a third degree felony, in violation of U.C.A., 1953, § 76-6-505(1) (1978 ed.).

Defendant was a 22-year-old student attending Utah State University at the time she was arrested. She opened a checking account with the Logan branch of Zions First National Bank on September 8, 1982. She wrote the five checks at issue here between November 5 and November 10, 1982, totalling $855, which were dishonored by the bank upon presentation. Testimony at trial disclosed that the bank sent defendant's October and November bank statements as well as notices of overdraft to an incorrect address. Testimony further revealed that between October 25, 1982, and November 12, 1982, less than three weeks, checks totalling $3,164.68 were processed through defendant's account, and deposits totalling $250 were made. From the time defendant opened the account on September 8, 1982, until it was closed on December 20, 1982, she wrote checks totalling $7,716.71 and made deposits of $2,837.33, resulting in a deficit of approximately $4,800. She testified at trial that she did not intend to pass bad checks and that she thought there was enough money in her account to cover each check written. She also testified that she believed her parents were making deposits into her account. With the exception of one check, over which there appeared to be a dispute regarding the cancellation of a contract, she subsequently paid the checks.

Defendant assails her conviction on these points: (1) the trial court abused its discretion in allowing prior bad checks into evidence; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction; (3) the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury as requested; and (4) the prosecutor's closing argument was improper and prejudicial.


Defendant contends that the trial court erred by admitting evidence that she had written nine checks which were returned on an account at First Interstate Bank. She argues that the admission of this evidence could and in fact did mislead, confuse, and prejudice the jury. She claims that checks written on another account could not in any way establish her intent at the time she wrote the checks for which she was arrested and, therefore, the checks were irrelevant. Specifically at issue is whether the trial court abused its discretion under Rule 401 of the Utah Rules of Evidence. This Court will not interfere with the trial court's ruling on evidentiary matters unless it clearly appears that the court so abused its discretion that there is a likelihood that injustice resulted. State v. McCardell, Utah, 652 P.2d 942 (1982); State v. Danker, Utah, 599 P.2d 518 (1979).

Defendant relies on Rules 401 and 402 of the Utah Rules of Evidence, which mandate the exclusion of irrelevant evidence. The State, however, urges that the evidence was properly admitted under Rule 404 because the defendant placed her character in issue by calling character witnesses. Rule 404 allows admission of evidence of a "pertinent trait" by the accused or "by the prosecution to rebut" that same evidence. The admission of the prior checks into evidence was to attack the credibility of both the defendant and her father as witnesses. Additionally, admission of this evidence was proper to show knowledge, intent, or absence of mistake. The evidence showed that this was not in fact defendant's first experience with a checking account. The trial judge weighed the probative value of such evidence in light of its prejudicial effect. The court, outside the presence of the jury and after carefully questioning the prosecution about the admission of this evidence, ruled that the evidence could come in with certain restrictions, e.g., that the prosecution not characterize the checks as "bad checks" or "problem checks." The prosecution was merely allowed to ask the defendant whether or not the checks had been returned. In State v. McCardell, supra, where the defendant was charged with aiding and abetting another to forge an endorsement on a check, we upheld the admission of blank checks found in defendant's automobile. They were identical to a check given to a bank teller and were relevant and probative evidence of material elements of the crime, viz., defendant's knowledge of the fraud and intentional participation in the forgery. There, the blank checks were admitted even though they may have indicated the commission of some other crime or civil wrong.

Although admission of the evidence in question may have created some danger of prejudice, it was not "substantially outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice." Utah R.Evid. 403. Therefore, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting this evidence to be presented to the jury.


Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict and that the trial court erred in denying her motion for directed acquittal. This Court will not lightly overturn a jury verdict. We must view the evidence properly presented at trial in the light most favorable to the verdict. When there is any evidence, including reasonable inferences that can be drawn from it, from which findings of all the requisite elements of the crime can be reasonably made, our inquiry stops and we sustain the verdict. State v. Eaton, Utah, 701 P.2d 496 (1985); State v. Gehring, Utah, 694 P.2d 599 (1984). "[I]ntent to commit [a crime] may be found from proof of facts from which it reasonably could be believed that such was the defendant's intent." State v. Kazda, 15 Utah 2d 313, 317, 392 P.2d 486, 488 (1964). Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the jury to evaluate the significance of the evidence. See State v. Wulffenstein, Utah, 657 P.2d 289 (1982).

Defendant argues that the prosecution failed to show that she had the requisite intent, i.e., that she knew the checks would not be honored by the drawee bank. Defendant further argues that if, in fact, the prosecution met its burden, the evidence presented was purely circumstantial and by itself created a reasonable doubt of her guilt. We have previously held that intent to prove a crime "may be inferred from the actions of the defendant or from surrounding circumstances." See State v. Murphy, Utah, 674 P.2d 1220, 1223 (1983). The transcript reveals these actions of the defendant: She wrote a check to House of Sound on November 10 for $450 in exchange for a portable stereo. The co-owner, Mrs. Karen Hechtle, talked with defendant (several days later, after two previous attempts), who indicated she knew that the check had not cleared her account. She made arrangements to pay the check on a certain day. Defendant failed to appear on that day, and Mrs. Hechtle waited a few more days for defendant to deliver payment. She then reported the matter to the police on or about December 7, 1982. Two checks written by defendant to ZCMI, each dated November 4, for $100 and $125, were returned without payment. Despite notices sent by ZCMI...

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26 cases
  • State v. Dunn
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • March 18, 1993
    ...State v. Gardner, 789 P.2d 273, 285 (Utah 1989), cert. denied, 494 U.S. 1090, 110 S.Ct. 1837, 108 L.Ed.2d 965 (1990); State v. McClain, 706 P.2d 603, 605 (Utah 1985); State v. Bolsinger, 699 P.2d 1214, 1218 (Utah 1985) (plurality). We recite the facts accordingly, Hamilton, 827 P.2d at 234,......
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    ...portion of it superfluous, and interpret the rule so as to maintain its harmony with other court rules related to it.” (footnote omitted)). 448.State v. McClain, 706 P.2d 603, 607 (Utah 1985). 449.Id. 450. “We will not make or develop [a defendant's] arguments for him.... [A] reviewing cour......
  • State v. Gardner
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • January 31, 1989
    ...most favorable to the verdict. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560, 573 (1979); State v. McClain, 706 P.2d 603, 605 (Utah 1985). Where there is any evidence, including reasonable inferences that can be drawn from it, from which findings of all the ele......
  • State v. Mickelson
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • December 31, 1992
    ...747 P.2d 1032, 1035 (Utah 1987) (trial court's evidentiary ruling will not be reversed absent abuse of discretion); State v. McClain, 706 P.2d 603, 604 (Utah 1985) (appellate court will not interfere with rulings on evidentiary matters unless it clearly appears discretion is The trial judge......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Utah Standards of Appellate Review
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 7-8, October 1994
    • Invalid date
    ...827 P.2d 232, 233 (Utah 1992); State v. Gardner, 789 P.2d 273, 285 (Utah 1989), cert, denied, 494 U.S. 1090 (1990); State v. McClain, 706 P.2d 603, 605 (Utah 1985); State v. Morgan, 865 P.2d 1377, 1379 (Utah App. 1993); State v. Barlow, 851 P.2d 1191, 1193 (Utah App.), cert, denied, 859 P.2......

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