State v. Sisneros, 040920 UTCA, 20181002-CA

Docket Nº:20181002-CA
Opinion Judge:ORME, JUDGE.
Party Name:State of Utah, Appellee, v. Landon Cole Sisneros, Appellant.
Attorney:Emily Adams and Cherise M. Bacalski, Attorneys for Appellant Sean D. Reyes and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee
Judge Panel:Judge Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges Jill M. Pohlman and Ryan M. Harris concurred.
Case Date:April 09, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Utah
 
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2020 UT App 60

State of Utah, Appellee,

v.

Landon Cole Sisneros, Appellant.

No. 20181002-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah

April 9, 2020

Second District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Joseph M. Bean No. 171901921

Emily Adams and Cherise M. Bacalski, Attorneys for Appellant

Sean D. Reyes and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges Jill M. Pohlman and Ryan M. Harris concurred.

OPINION

ORME, JUDGE.

¶1 Appellant Landon Cole Sisneros challenges his conviction for aggravated robbery, arguing that the district court should have dismissed the charge as part of a single criminal episode because a different district court had already convicted him for theft by receiving stolen property arising from the same incident. We agree and vacate Sisneros's conviction for aggravated robbery.

BACKGROUND

¶2 In August 2017, a seller (Son) advertised his car for sale in North Ogden, located in Weber County. After Son posted the advertisement, Sisneros began "blowing up [Son's] phone to come and test drive it right then," telling Son he "had the money and wanted to buy a car right then." Son explained that he was out of town and could not show him the car that day, but Sisneros persisted, so Son arranged for his father (Father) to show Sisneros the car and take him on a test drive.

¶3 At the conclusion of the test drive, both Sisneros and Father exited the car, but Sisneros left the car running with the driver's door open. Father and Sisneros walked around to the front of the car and Father heard Sisneros talking "on his phone saying how much he wanted the car." "[T]he next thing [Father knew, Sisneros] jumped back in the car and proceeded to leave." Father "ran out in the road," "got on the hood," and "yelled at him 'don't do it.'" Father then got off the hood and stood in front of the car and Sisneros "rev-ed it up and bumped [Father]," "leaving some bruising on [his] knee." At this point, Father got out of the way and let Sisneros leave because he decided it was not "worth it." Father subsequently called the North Ogden Police Department, which broadcast an alert that Son's car had been stolen "so that officers throughout any city or county [could] be on the lookout for the vehicle." As soon as Father told him what had happened, Son also posted notices on social media that his car had been stolen.

¶4 Sisneros drove the car over 70 miles, through Weber, Davis, and Salt Lake counties, to his home in Utah County, where he met up with friends "and told them to look at his new car." Fortuitously, one of these friends had seen Son's social media post and recognized Sisneros's "new car" as the one that had been stolen. This friend then called the local police. The following day, officers from the Orem Police Department in Utah County found Son's car abandoned in Orem, and they later located and arrested Sisneros.

¶5 In the probable cause statement justifying Sisneros's arrest in Utah County, the Orem police officer who arrested Sisneros stated that Sisneros confessed that he had stolen the car and that while "talking to [Father in front of the car] he noticed the door was open, jumped in and drove away . . . [and Father] attempted to grab the door but was unable to because the door was locked." Sisneros also told the officer "that he had thrown the keys out the window on 800 North near the overpass." The police recovered the keys at that location.

¶6 On August 16, 2017, the Utah County Attorney's Office charged Sisneros in fourth district court with theft by receiving stolen property and obstruction of justice. The probable cause statement on the charging document detailed, among other things, that Sisneros "admitted that he had gone to North Ogden to test drive a car that was for sale, and that when the test drive was over, he jumped back in the car and drove away." Sisneros made his initial appearance the next day.

¶7 Five days later, on August 22, the Weber County Attorney's Office charged Sisneros in second district court with aggravated robbery for "intentionally tak[ing] or attempt[ing] to take personal property in the possession [of Father] from his . . . person . . . against his . . . will, by means of force or fear, and with a purpose or intent to deprive [Father] permanently or temporarily of the personal property."

¶8 Nine days later, on August 31, Sisneros pled guilty to theft by receiving stolen property and obstruction of justice in fourth district court. And two weeks after that, on September 15, Sisneros made his initial appearance in second district court on the aggravated robbery charge. Sisneros moved to have his charge in second district court dismissed. He argued that Utah Code section 76-1-403 prohibited the charge for aggravated robbery in second district court because the statute "bars multiple prosecutions of offenses that arise out of the same criminal episode." The district court denied the motion, ruling that the crime of Theft by Receiving Stolen Property . . . is a separate and distinct offense from Robbery . . . and was not part of a single criminal episode. [Sisneros] committed the robbery in Weber County, demonstrated an intent to retain possession of the property where he transported the property across two counties and represented to others that he owned the vehicle. Furthermore, there were two separate victims, [Father] (robbery) and [Son] (theft by receiving).

The state is not prohibited from prosecuting [Sisneros] for the separate and distinct crime of robbery as a separate criminal act during a separate criminal episode.

¶9 Following this ruling, Sisneros entered into a conditional plea agreement in which he pled guilty to the aggravated robbery charge but reserved his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss. See generally Utah R. Crim. P. 11(j). Sisneros now exercises that right.

ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶10 Sisneros raises one issue on appeal. He contends that the second district court erroneously denied his motion to dismiss the aggravated robbery charge under Utah Code section 76-1-403. "A trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion to dismiss presents a question of law, which we review for correctness." State v. Selzer, 2013 UT App 3, ¶ 14, 294 P.3d 617 (quotation simplified).

ANALYSIS

¶11 "The Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution insulates a defendant from multiple prosecutions or multiple sentences for the same offense." State v. Ririe, 2015 UT 37, ¶ 6, 345 P.3d 1261. Utah Code section 76-1-403, however, "takes the matter a step further" and "adopts a species of res judicata or claim preclusion for criminal cases-barring prosecutions for different offenses committed as part of a single criminal episode and otherwise meeting the terms of the statute." Id. (emphasis in original). Section 403(1) states, in relevant part, as follows: If a defendant has been prosecuted for one or more offenses arising out of a single criminal episode, a subsequent prosecution for the same or a different offense arising out of the same criminal episode is barred if:

(a) the subsequent prosecution is for an offense that was or should have been tried under Subsection 76-1-402(2) in the former prosecution; and

(b) the former prosecution

. . .

(ii) resulted in conviction.

Utah Code Ann. § 76-1-403(1) (LexisNexis 2017). Section 402(2), in turn, provides: Whenever conduct may establish separate offenses under a single criminal episode, . . . a defendant...

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