Trujillo v. State

Decision Date11 February 2016
Docket NumberNo. CR–15–638,CR–15–638
Citation483 S.W.3d 801
Parties Ramon B. Trujillo, Appellant v. State of Arkansas, Appellee
CourtArkansas Supreme Court

Norwood & Norwood, P.A., by: Doug Norwood and Alison Lee, for appellant.

Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

KAREN R. BAKER, Associate Justice

On June 1, 2015, appellant, Ramon Ballesteros Trujillo, was arrested in Benton County, Arkansas, and ultimately charged with two counts of aggravated assault, one count of second-degree domestic battery, one count of third-degree domestic battery, and enhanced penalty for an offense committed in the presence of children. The affidavit of probable cause for Trujillo's arrest provided that on May 31 and June 1, 2015, Trujillo physically abused his thirty-five-week pregnant girlfriend, Lesly Velazquez and her one-year-old son, and stated that Trujillo punched and hit both Velazquez and her son, attempted to smother her son, bound Velazquez with cable cords, and dunked her under water in a bathtub. On June 3, 2015, Trujillo appeared in district court and the district court entered a "no contact" order and set bail at $25,000 cash or surety. On that same day, Trujillo posted bond and was released. On June 12, 2015, the State filed a motion to revoke Trujillo's release status and increase Trujillo's bail, alleging that Trujillo had violated the "no contact" order. Also, on June 12, 2015, the circuit court issued a bench warrant. On July 15 and 23, 2015, the circuit court conducted bail hearings and on July 23, 2015, set Trujillo's bail at "$300,000 cash." Trujillo objected and asserted that Arkansas does not allow cash-only bail and that Trujillo's bail was excessive.

On August 12, 2015, Trujillo filed his petition for writ of certiorari and on August 19, 2015, the State responded. On September 10, 2015, we took the petition as a case and set a briefing schedule. The parties timely filed their briefs and Trujillo presents two points in support of his request that this court issue a writ of certiorari for review: (1) the circuit court erred in setting a cash-only bail and (2) the circuit court erred in ordering $300,000 cash-only bail because $300,000 is excessive.

Standard of Review

The remedy of the writ of certiorari is appropriate to review bail-bond proceedings. Foreman v. State, 317 Ark. 146, 875 S.W.2d 853 (1994) (per curiam); Duncan v. State, 308 Ark. 205, 823 S.W.2d 886 (1992) ; Thomas v. State, 260 Ark. 512, 542 S.W.2d 284 (1976). The scope and nature of the writ of certiorari has been defined as follows: Certiorari lies to correct proceedings erroneous on the face of the record where there is no other adequate remedy, and it is available to the appellate court in its exercise of superintending control over a lower court that is proceeding illegally where no other mode of review has been provided. Lupo v. Lineberger, 313 Ark. 315, 855 S.W.2d 293 (1993). A demonstration of a plain, manifest, clear, and gross abuse of discretion is essential before this court will grant a petition for writ of certiorari. Shorey v. Thompson, 295 Ark. 664, 750 S.W.2d 955 (1988).

Finally, with regard to our interpretation of the constitution, this court reviews the circuit court's interpretation of the constitution de novo, and though this court is not bound by the circuit court's decision, the circuit court's interpretation will be accepted as correct on appeal in the absence of a showing that the circuit court erred. Shipp v. Franklin, 370 Ark. 262, 264, 258 S.W.3d 744, 747 (2007).

Law and Analysis

Prior to reaching the merits of the issues presented, we must first determine whether the issues presented are ripe for review. The State contends that Trujillo's arguments regarding pretrial bail lack merit and may also be moot because the record demonstrates that a trial date had been set prior to this court reaching the merits of Trujillo's arguments. In his reply brief, Trujillo responds that on November 30, 2015, Trujillo pled guilty to aggravated assault, second-degree domestic battery, and third-degree domestic battery and is in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Correction. However, Trujillo urges us to address the issues presented because his petition falls within an exception to the mootness doctrine as an issue of substantial public interest. Accordingly, we must determine whether Trujillo's case is moot.

In Cotten v. Fooks, 346 Ark. 130, 133–34, 55 S.W.3d 290, 292 (2001), we explained,

[a]s a general rule, the appellate courts of this state will not review issues that are moot. See Forrest Constr., Inc. v. Milam, 345 Ark. 1, 43 S.W.3d 140 (2001) ; Dillon v. Twin City Bank, 325 Ark. 309, 924 S.W.2d 802 (1996). To do so would be to render advisory opinions, which this court will not do. McCuen v. McGee, 315 Ark. 561, 868 S.W.2d 503 (1994). We have generally held that a case becomes moot when any judgment rendered would have no practical legal effect upon a then-existing legal controversy. See Forrest Constr., Inc. v. Milam, supra ; Quinn v. Webb Wheel Products , 334 Ark. 573, 976 S.W.2d 386 (1998) ; Dillon v. Twin City Bank, supra .
This court has recognized two exceptions to the mootness doctrine, one of which involves issues that are capable of repetition, yet evade review. See, e.g., Quinn v. Webb Wheel Products, supra ; Robinson v. Arkansas State Game & Fish Comm'n, 263 Ark. 462, 565 S.W.2d 433 (1978) (authority of courts to enter temporary orders despite expiration of the particular orders being litigated); Cummings v. Washington County Election Comm'n, 291 Ark. 354, 724 S.W.2d 486 (1987) (addressing question of candidate's eligibility to run for office despite completion of election cycle). The other mootness exception concerns issues that raise considerations of substantial public interest which, if addressed, would prevent future litigation. This exception arose early in our caselaw and continues today. See, e.g., Forrest Constr., Inc. v. Milam, supra (holding that an issue is a matter of substantial public importance where it involves the use of property in a large subdivision and involves the rights of a large number of people); Duhon v. Gravett, 302 Ark. 358, 790 S.W.2d 155 (1990) (holding that the question of the constitutionality of Arkansas's judgment enforcement statutes was a substantial question that merited review despite mootness of actual controversy); Owens v. Taylor, 299 Ark. 373, 772 S.W.2d 596 (1989) (holding a substantial issue remained, despite mootness, as to whether conditions could be imposed on a defendant's release from State Hospital when he was scheduled to stand trial); Cain v. Carl–Lee, 171 Ark. 155, 283 S.W. 365 (1926) (following the rule in Wilson ); Wilson v. Thompson, 56 Ark. 110, 19 S.W. 321 (1892) (addressing issues despite mootness because "the cause was of practical importance").

Cotten, 346 Ark. at 133–34, 55 S.W.3d at 292.

Here, Trujillo has presented two issues. Trujillo's first issue is whether "cash only" bail is prohibited under our state law. Because the imposition of "cash only" bail affects all criminal defendants seeking pretrial release, the public, our judiciary and members of the bar, it falls within the purview of the exception to the mootness doctrine as an issue of substantial public interest. However, with regard to Trujillo's argument regarding excessive bail, the issue presented is specific to Trujillo. Further, because Trujillo entered a guilty plea, the issue has become moot and will not be addressed.

Cash–Only Bail

Turning to the remaining merits of Trujillo's petition, the issue is whether the circuit court erred in setting a "cash only" bail. Trujillo asserts that a "cash only" bail violates the Arkansas Constitution, article 2, section 8.

At the bail hearing, over Trujillo's objection, the circuit court ruled that the bail was cash-only. At issue is article 2, section 8, of the Arkansas Constitution, which states in pertinent part:

All persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great.

Id. (emphasis added).

Rule 9.2 of the Arkansas Rules of Criminal Procedure, "Release on Money Bail," provides in pertinent part as follows:

(a) The judicial officer shall set money bail only after he determines that no other conditions will reasonably ensure the appearance of the defendant in court.
(b) If it is determined that money bail should be set, the judicial officer shall require one (1) of the following:
....
(iii) the execution of a bond secured by the deposit of the full amount in cash, or by other property, or by obligation of qualified sureties.

Trujillo contends that cash-only bail violates "sufficient sureties" as required by art. 2, section 8 of our constitution. The State responds that the obvious and common meaning of "sufficient" and "surety" includes cash, and the meanings of these words do not indicate that cash cannot serve as the surety.

We review questions of constitutional construction de novo. See Wilson v. Weiss, 370 Ark. 205, 258 S.W.3d 351 (2007). When interpreting the constitution, our task is to read the laws as they are written and interpret them in accordance with established principles of constitutional construction. Brewer v. Fergus, 348 Ark. 577, 79 S.W.3d 831 (2002). Language of a constitutional provision that is plain and unambiguous must be given its obvious and common meaning. Proctor v. Daniels, 2010 Ark. 206, 392 S.W.3d 360. Neither rules of construction nor rules of interpretation may be used to defeat the clear and certain meaning of a constitutional provision. Id. Further, the Arkansas Constitution must be considered as a whole, and every provision must be read in light of other provisions relating to the same subject matter. Forrester v. Daniels, 2010 Ark. 397, 373 S.W.3d 871.

With these standards in mind, we turn to the language at issue, which states in pertinent part: "All persons shall, before conviction, be...

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