State v. Searles, No. 91-038

Docket NºNo. 91-038
Citation621 A.2d 1281, 159 Vt. 525
Case DateJanuary 15, 1993
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

Page 1281

621 A.2d 1281
159 Vt. 525
STATE of Vermont
v.
Eric R. SEARLES.
No. 91-038.
Supreme Court of Vermont.
Jan. 15, 1993.

Page 1282

[159 Vt. 526] Jeffrey L. Amestoy, Atty. Gen., and David Tartter, Asst. Atty. Gen., Montpelier, for plaintiff-appellee.

Charles Martin and Helene Quinn, Law Clerk on the brief, of Martin & Paolini and Phyllis Boltax, Barre, for defendant-appellant.

Before [159 Vt. 525] ALLEN, C.J., GIBSON, DOOLEY, MORSE and JOHNSON, JJ.

[159 Vt. 526] MORSE, Justice.

Defendant Eric Searles, following a jury trial, appeals his conviction under 13 V.S.A. § 3252(a)(3) for sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old female. Defendant contests his conviction on three grounds. He claims the court erred by (1) refusing to instruct the jury that knowledge of the victim's age was an element of the offense, or, if not an element, that a reasonable mistake about the victim's age was a defense to the crime; (2) admitting evidence of the use of force when force was not an element of the crime; and (3) denying a mistrial when media coverage of the trial was read by some jurors. We affirm.

In the evening of August 6, 1989, defendant, accompanied by two male friends, stopped in Barre and met the complainant, a female ten days shy of her fifteenth birthday. Although she knew none of the three, complainant joined them and indicated, when asked, the whereabouts of a party. Beer was purchased, and, unable to find the party, the group drove around making several stops. Eventually, defendant drove to Marshfield Dam with one of his friends and complainant. There, the men forced her to have sexual intercourse with them. She was then driven to the home of her friends in Randolph. During the ride, she wrote the car's license number on her arm with a pen found on the dashboard. The next morning, complainant reported the incident to the police.

I.

13 V.S.A. § 3252(a)(3) defines sexual assault of a minor as "a sexual act with another person and ... [t]he other person is [159 Vt. 527] under the age of 16, except where the persons are married to each other and the sexual act is consensual." Defendant argues that knowledge that the "other person is under the age of 16" is an element of the offense.

Although defendant captions his first argument with a heading that states that his "constitutional right to due process" was violated by failure of the jury to consider the reasonableness of his knowledge of the victim's age, he does not brief either federal or state constitutional law. Rather, defendant analogizes the knowledge requirement for this offense to cases where we implied a mental element even though the statute was silent. See State v. Day, 150 Vt. 119, 122, 549 A.2d 1061, 1064 (1988) (operating a motor vehicle without owner's consent--knowledge of lack of consent); State v. Audette, 149 Vt. 218, 222, 543 A.2d 1315, 1317 (1988) (kidnapping--knowledge of restraint); State v. Hanson, 141 Vt. 228, 232, 446 A.2d 372, 374 (1982) (larceny--intent to permanently deprive owner of property); State v. Graves, 140 Vt. 202, 205, 436 A.2d 755, 757 (1981) (uttering a

Page 1283

false prescription--knowledge of falsity); State v. Sidway, 139 Vt. 480, 484, 431 A.2d 1237, 1239 (1981) ("hit and run"--knowledge of the accident).

Statutory rape, the common-law crime of having sexual intercourse with a female under a certain age, has traditionally been considered a strict liability offense, where "mistake as to the age of an underage participant has been accorded no defensive significance." Model Penal Code § 213.6 comment 2 (1980). Vermont has neither statutorily deviated from the traditional rule, nor done so by judicial decision. See State v. Messier, 145 Vt. 622, 627-28, 497 A.2d 740, 743 (1985) (defining crimes is generally a task for the legislature).

Silence about a mental element in the statutory definition of a crime requires this Court to determine whether the Legislature nevertheless intended to include one. State v. Roy, 151 Vt. 17, 25, 557 A.2d 884, 889 (1989); Audette, 149 Vt. at 221, 543 A.2d at 1316-17. This Court will not imply a mental requirement, however, "when the statutory language cuts against such a result and the policy behind the statute would be defeated." Roy, 151 Vt. at 25, 557 A.2d at 889. We have previously stated the criteria used to decide whether a statute was intended to impose strict liability. As we stated in Roy:

[159 Vt. 528] In addition to the statutory language, the...

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25 practice notes
  • In re GT, No. 96-610.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 19, 2000
    ...require such a limitation. G.T. also stresses that we have held that statutory rape is a strict liability offense, see State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 528-29, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 (1993), for which the 758 A.2d 303 only elements are the age of the "victim" and the presence of a sexual act. Se......
  • Northern Sec. Ins. Co. v. Perron, No. 99-109.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 4, 2001
    ...minors and the gravity we attach to crimes involving the exploitation of minors.'" Id. at 152, 716 A.2d at 33 (quoting State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 528, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 The trial court applied the inferred-intent rule in this case, where a minor is accused of sexually abusing another ......
  • State v. Yanez, No. 97-110-C
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • August 4, 1998
    ...defense in a number of bills or committee reports but had ultimately rejected the proposal. 632 A.2d at 804-05; see also State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 (1993). We have no such legislative history before The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, as noted earlier, relied o......
  • State v. Bellanger, No. 16–221
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • February 9, 2018
    ...for the protection and well-being of minors and the gravity we attach to crimes involving the exploitation of minors." State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 528, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 (1993). The cases defendant cites provide no grounds upon which to conclude that the Legislature's policy choice reg......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • In re GT, No. 96-610.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 19, 2000
    ...require such a limitation. G.T. also stresses that we have held that statutory rape is a strict liability offense, see State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 528-29, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 (1993), for which the 758 A.2d 303 only elements are the age of the "victim" and the presence of a sexual act. Se......
  • Northern Sec. Ins. Co. v. Perron, No. 99-109.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • May 4, 2001
    ...minors and the gravity we attach to crimes involving the exploitation of minors.'" Id. at 152, 716 A.2d at 33 (quoting State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 528, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 The trial court applied the inferred-intent rule in this case, where a minor is accused of sexually abusing another ......
  • State v. Yanez, No. 97-110-C
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Rhode Island
    • August 4, 1998
    ...defense in a number of bills or committee reports but had ultimately rejected the proposal. 632 A.2d at 804-05; see also State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 (1993). We have no such legislative history before The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, as noted earlier, relied o......
  • State v. Bellanger, No. 16–221
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • February 9, 2018
    ...for the protection and well-being of minors and the gravity we attach to crimes involving the exploitation of minors." State v. Searles, 159 Vt. 525, 528, 621 A.2d 1281, 1283 (1993). The cases defendant cites provide no grounds upon which to conclude that the Legislature's policy choice reg......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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