State v. Winegardner, No. CR-17-0269-PR

CourtSupreme Court of Arizona
Writing for the CourtCHIEF JUSTICE BALES, opinion of the Court
Citation413 P.3d 683
Parties STATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Darren Lee WINEGARDNER, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. CR-17-0269-PR
Decision Date26 March 2018

413 P.3d 683

STATE of Arizona, Appellee,
v.
Darren Lee WINEGARDNER, Appellant.

No. CR-17-0269-PR

Supreme Court of Arizona.

Filed March 26, 2018


Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Dominic E. Draye, Solicitor General, Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals Section, Phoenix, Diane Leigh Hunt (argued), Assistant Attorney General, Tucson, Attorneys for State of Arizona

Joel Feinman, Pima County Public Defender, Erin K. Sutherland (argued), Assistant Public Defender, Tucson, Attorneys for Darren Lee Winegardner

CHIEF JUSTICE BALES authored the opinion of the Court, in which VICE CHIEF JUSTICE BRUTINEL and JUSTICES PELANDER and TIMMER joined. JUSTICE LOPEZ, joined by JUSTICES BOLICK and GOULD, dissented in part and concurred in the result.

CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, opinion of the Court:

413 P.3d 685

¶ 1 Arizona Rule of Evidence 609(a)(2) provides that when a party seeks to attack "a witness's character for truthfulness by evidence of a criminal conviction ..., the evidence must be admitted if the court can readily determine that establishing the elements of the crime required proving—or the witness's admitting—a dishonest act or false statement." We hold that a conviction for shoplifting, as codified in A.R.S. § 13-1805(A), is not automatically admissible under Rule 609(a)(2) because the crime does not necessarily require the prosecution to prove "a dishonest act or false statement" within the meaning of the rule. Evidence of a shoplifting conviction is admissible only when the court can readily determine that the conviction turned on such proof.

I.

¶ 2 The State indicted Darren Winegardner on one count of sexual conduct with a minor, alleging that he engaged in sexual intercourse with his stepdaughter, L.B. At trial, the prosecution called L.B. to testify. Winegardner told the court that he intended to impeach L.B. with a 2015 misdemeanor shoplifting conviction. He offered no details of the conviction other than stating that it was a crime of moral turpitude. Finding that the "probative value does not substantially outweigh the danger of unfair prejudice," the trial court refused to admit the impeachment evidence. The jury found Winegardner guilty, and the court sentenced him to a mitigated term of 3.5 years' imprisonment.

¶ 3 Noting that Rule 609(a)(2) requires courts to admit evidence of convictions involving dishonest acts or false statements, Winegardner argued on appeal that the trial court committed reversible error by precluding him from impeaching L.B. with evidence of the shoplifting conviction. The court of appeals disagreed and rejected classifying shoplifting as a "dishonest act or false statement" for purposes of Rule 609(a)(2). State v. Winegardner , 242 Ariz. 430, 434 ¶ 16, 397 P.3d 363, 367–68 (App. 2017).

¶ 4 We granted review because the proper interpretation of Rule 609(a)(2) is of statewide importance. We have jurisdiction under article 6, section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and A.R.S. § 12-120.24.

II.

¶ 5 Although we review a trial court's decision regarding the admission of evidence for abuse of discretion, State v. Gill , 242 Ariz. 1, 3 ¶ 7, 391 P.3d 1193, 1195 (2017), we review the interpretation of court rules de novo, State v.Fitzgerald , 232 Ariz. 208, 210 ¶ 10, 303 P.3d 519, 521 (2013), and apply principles of statutory construction when doing so, Spring v. Bradford , 243 Ariz. 167, 170 ¶ 12, 403 P.3d 579, 582 (2017). "Under those principles, if a rule's language is subject to only one reasonable meaning, we apply that meaning. When the language can reasonably be read more than one way, however, we may consider the [rule]'s subject matter, legislative history, and purpose, as well as the effect of different interpretations, to derive its meaning." Id. (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell v. Indus. Comm'n , 236 Ariz. 478, 480 ¶ 7, 341 P.3d 1149, 1151 (2015) ).

A.

¶ 6 Arizona Rule of Evidence 609 governs impeachment by evidence of a criminal conviction. Subsection (a)(1) provides that felony convictions are generally admissible, subject to Rule 403 in civil cases or in criminal cases in which the witness is not a defendant. Subsection (a)(2) mandates the admission of evidence of any conviction "if the court can readily determine that establishing the elements of the crime required proving—or the witness's admitting—a dishonest act or false statement." In contrast to (a)(1), subsection (a)(2) mandates the admission of evidence of a prior conviction regardless of any consideration of its prejudicial effect under Rule 403.

413 P.3d 686

¶ 7 This case turns on whether a shoplifting conviction under Arizona law necessarily requires proof of a "dishonest act" as that term is used in Rule 609(a)(2). Although words in rules generally are to be understood in their ordinary, everyday meanings, the context in which they are used may indicate they bear a technical meaning. See In re Nelson , 207 Ariz. 318, 322 ¶ 17, 86 P.3d 374, 378 (2004) (noting that "costs" is a term of art and applying limited meaning consistent with caselaw); Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 69-77 (2012) (discussing "ordinary meaning" rule and how context may affect its application).

¶ 8 Adopted in 1977, Arizona's evidentiary rules were modeled on the federal rules. Supreme Court of Arizona, Admin. Order No. 2010-42; see also State v. Malloy , 131 Ariz. 125, 126, 639 P.2d 315, 316 (1981). In 2010, we created an ad hoc committee on the rules of evidence to identify differences between the federal and state rules and to consider changes to conform the state rules to the federal rules. See Supreme Court of Arizona, Admin. Order No. 2010-42. Since its amendment in 2012, Arizona Rule 609 has matched its federal counterpart. Compare Ariz. R. Evid. 609, with Fed. R. Evid. 609. When an Arizona evidentiary rule mirrors the corresponding federal rule, we look to federal law for guidance. See Hernandez v. State , 203 Ariz. 196, 198 ¶ 10, 52 P.3d 765, 767 (2002) ; see also Ariz. R. Evid. prefatory cmt. to 2012 amendments. Although the federal courts' interpretation of the Federal Rules of Evidence does not control our interpretation of our own evidentiary rules, federal precedent is particularly persuasive given that we have expressly sought to conform our rules to the federal rules.

¶ 9 Given our rule's origins and our desired conformity with the federal rules, we consider the federal rule's legislative history to see whether its drafters intended to give the terms "dishonest act" and "false statement" a particular meaning. "[W]here Congress borrows terms of art in which are accumulated the legal tradition and meaning of centuries of practice, it presumably knows and adopts the cluster of ideas that were attached to each borrowed word ... unless otherwise instructed." Morissette v. United States , 342 U.S. 246, 263, 72 S.Ct. 240, 96 L.Ed. 288 (1952) ; see also Sekhar v. United States , 570 U.S. 729, 733, 133 S.Ct. 2720, 186 L.Ed.2d 794 (2013) ("[A]s Justice Frankfurter colorfully put it, ‘if a word is obviously transplanted from another legal source, whether the common law or other legislation, it brings the old soil with it.’ " (quoting Felix Frankfurter, Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes , 47 Colum. L. Rev. 527, 537 (1947) ) ).

¶ 10 A conference committee developed the federal rule's final language to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of the rule. United States v. Ortega , 561 F.2d 803, 806 (9th Cir. 1977). The committee explained that

the phrase "dishonesty and false statement" ... means crimes such as perjury or subornation of perjury, false statement, criminal fraud, embezzlement, or false pretense, or any other offenses in the nature of crimen falsi, the commission of which involves some element of deceit, untruthfulness, or falsification bearing on the accused's propensity to testify truthfully.

H.R. Rep. No. 93-1597, at 9 (1974) (Conf. Rep.); see also Ortega , 561 F.2d at 806. In light of this explanation, the rule's drafters clearly intended a specific legal meaning for the terms "dishonest act" and "false statement."

¶ 11 We considered Rule 609(a)(2)'s language in Malloy , when we reviewed whether burglary was a crime of dishonesty for purposes of the rule. 131 Ariz. at 127, 639 P.2d at 317. We reasoned that, considering the purpose and history of Rule 609, "the phrase ‘dishonesty or false statement’ should be construed narrowly to include only those crimes involving some element of deceit, untruthfulness, or falsification." Id. In turn, examining the language of A.R.S. § 13-1506, we found that "[t]he crime of burglary does not necessarily involve an element of deceit or falsification and, consequently, is not admissible under Rule 609(a)(2)." Id. at 128, 639 P.2d at 318. Malloy recognizes that although acts of theft and robbery evoke a common connotation of dishonesty, Rule 609(a)(2) is concerned only with crimes that "establish the

413 P.3d 687

trait of untruthfulness." Id. at 127, 639 P.2d at 317.

¶ 12 Because such a character trait is relevant to evaluating credibility, convictions for...

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10 practice notes
  • State v. Allen, CR-17-0368-AP
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • July 26, 2022
    ...persuasive given that we have expressly sought to conform our rules to the federal rules." State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, 485 ¶ 8, 413 P.3d 683, 686 (2018).4 John, Judith, Cynthia, and the Bishop (a clergy member to whom Cynthia had spoken about the circumstances of A.D.'s death).5 S......
  • Saban Rent-A-Car LLC v. Ariz. Dep't of Revenue, No. CV-18-0080-PR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • February 25, 2019
    ...& Dev. Co. v. Pima County , 170 Ariz. 380, 383, 825 P.2d 1, 4 (1992) )); accord, e.g. , State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, 489 ¶ 29, 413 P.3d 683, 690 (2018) (Lopez, J., dissenting in part and concurring in the result) ("In doing so, we glossed over the Rule’s plain language to find a mu......
  • State v. Duarte, No. 2 CA-CR 2017-0349
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • November 29, 2018
    ...offense and whether the conviction required proof of a dishonest act or false statement." State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, ¶ 13, 413 P.3d 683 (2018). "[T]he phrase ‘dishonest act or false statement’ should be construed narrowly to include only those crimes that involve deceit, untruthf......
  • State v. Todd, No. 2 CA-CR 2016-0414
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • April 9, 2018
    ...deceit, untruthfulness, or falsification," and not crimes such as theft or robbery); see also State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, ¶ 17, 413 P.3d 683 (2018). Because F.O.'s prior convictions did not involve dishonesty or false statements and because—as Todd acknowledges—F.O.'s prior felony......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • State v. Allen, CR-17-0368-AP
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • July 26, 2022
    ...persuasive given that we have expressly sought to conform our rules to the federal rules." State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, 485 ¶ 8, 413 P.3d 683, 686 (2018).4 John, Judith, Cynthia, and the Bishop (a clergy member to whom Cynthia had spoken about the circumstances of A.D.'s death).5 S......
  • Saban Rent-A-Car LLC v. Ariz. Dep't of Revenue, No. CV-18-0080-PR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • February 25, 2019
    ...& Dev. Co. v. Pima County , 170 Ariz. 380, 383, 825 P.2d 1, 4 (1992) )); accord, e.g. , State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, 489 ¶ 29, 413 P.3d 683, 690 (2018) (Lopez, J., dissenting in part and concurring in the result) ("In doing so, we glossed over the Rule’s plain language to find a mu......
  • State v. Duarte, No. 2 CA-CR 2017-0349
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • November 29, 2018
    ...offense and whether the conviction required proof of a dishonest act or false statement." State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, ¶ 13, 413 P.3d 683 (2018). "[T]he phrase ‘dishonest act or false statement’ should be construed narrowly to include only those crimes that involve deceit, untruthf......
  • State v. Todd, No. 2 CA-CR 2016-0414
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • April 9, 2018
    ...deceit, untruthfulness, or falsification," and not crimes such as theft or robbery); see also State v. Winegardner , 243 Ariz. 482, ¶ 17, 413 P.3d 683 (2018). Because F.O.'s prior convictions did not involve dishonesty or false statements and because—as Todd acknowledges—F.O.'s prior felony......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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