No. 2 CA-CR 2017-0254
COUNSEL Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General By Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel By Amy M. Thorson, Assistant Attorney General, Tucson Counsel for Appellee Emily Danies, Tucson Counsel for Appellant
THIS DECISION DOES NOT CREATE LEGAL PRECEDENT AND MAY NOT BE CITED EXCEPT AS AUTHORIZED BY APPLICABLE RULES.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
See Ariz. R. Sup. Ct. 111(c)(1); Ariz. R. Crim. P. 31.19(e). Appeal from the Superior Court in Pima County
The Honorable Richard S. Fields, Judge
COUNSEL Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General
By Joseph T. Maziarz, Chief Counsel
By Amy M. Thorson, Assistant Attorney General, Tucson
Counsel for Appellee Emily Danies, Tucson
Counsel for Appellant
Judge Brearcliffe authored the decision of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Staring and Chief Judge Eckerstrom concurred. BREARCLIFFE, Judge:
¶1 David Beagle appeals from his conviction after a bench trial of possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited possessor after which the trial court sentenced him to an enhanced five-year prison term. We affirm.
¶2 On appeal, Beagle contends that the trial court erred by failing to preclude at trial his statements to police because they were taken in violation of Miranda and by finding, for purposes of sentencing, that his prior conviction was established by clear and convincing evidence. The state contends that there was no Miranda violation and that the prior conviction was established by sufficient evidence. The issues are whether Beagle's statements were taken in violation of Miranda and therefore should have been suppressed and whether the prior conviction was established by clear and convincing evidence.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
Factual and Procedural History
¶3 "We view the facts in the light most favorable to sustaining the conviction." State v. Robles, 213 Ariz. 268, ¶ 2 (App. 2006). At trial, Tucson Police Department (TPD) Officer Mark Molina testified about his traffic stop, questioning and arrest of Beagle, and TPD Detective Michael Van Arody testified about his interrogation of Beagle after his arrest. The court admitted three law enforcement body-cam videos of Beagle's traffic stop, questioning and arrest. It also admitted the transcript of Beagle post-arrest interrogation.
¶4 In February 2016, Molina pulled over Beagle, who was driving a black Chrysler, for speeding. After Beagle gave Molina his license, Molina allowed Beagle to retrieve his insurance information from the trunk of his car. When Beagle left his vehicle, Molina noticed a bulge on Molina's left side at his waist. Molina grabbed Beagle's arm and asked what it was, and Beagle said it was pump for a boil on his hip. Molina released him and asked what was in Beagle's other pocket, where something appeared to be rolled up in his shirt. Beagle did not answer. Then when Molina asked the question a second time, Beagle answered "protection."
¶5 With that answer, Molina became concerned for his safety, "neutralized" Beagle's arm, held it, then patted him down. During the pat down, Molina recognized the shape of a gun, and then retrieved a loaded pistol which had been rolled up in Beagle's shirt. Molina directed Beagle to sit down in front of his car and called for backup.
¶6 After backup arrived, Molina discovered that Beagle was on probation in Florida. Molina asked Beagle if he was on supervised release and if he was a prohibited possessor, and Beagle responded affirmatively. After more officers arrived, Molina read Beagle his Miranda rights for the first time. At first, Beagle equivocated whether he understood his rights and whether he would answer Molina's questions, but then Beagle indicated he was trying to be helpful and agreed to answer questions. At that time, Beagle again admitted to being a prohibited possessor. Beagle was then arrested and taken into post-arrest custody.
¶7 Beagle was questioned at the police station by Detectives Van Arody and Granados. The detectives did not again read a Miranda warning during this interrogation, but confirmed that Beagle understood his rights; Beagle did not clearly indicate he wanted to speak to an attorney. Beagle again admitted that he possessed a weapon while being a prohibited possessor.
¶8 At trial, Beagle objected to the admission of his statements made to Molina at the scene on Miranda grounds. He additionally argued that his post-Miranda statements at the scene and to detectives after his arrest were inadmissible as fruit of the poisonous tree. The trial court postponed its ruling on the Miranda objection until after closing arguments, so it could review the police body-cam videos and the transcript of the post-arrest interrogation in chambers. The court found a Miranda violation when Molina asked Beagle questions when he was not free to leave, but nonetheless found overwhelming evidence otherwise to establish that Beagle was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
¶9 At trial, the state presented documentary proof of two prior felony convictions from Florida: one from Volusia County and one from Lake County. The January 2015 Lake County conviction was for "felony fleeing or attempting to elude," a second-degree felony, and reckless driving, a misdemeanor. The May 2015 Volusia County conviction was for carrying a concealed firearm, a third-degree felony in Florida. The state offered both convictions as evidence of the element of the charged offense that Beagle was a prohibited possessor.
Because it was unclear that the charge from Volusia County would have been a felony if committed in Arizona, that conviction was not offered as a historical prior conviction for purposes of sentencing.
¶10 The state also offered documents as to Beagle's 1997 conviction in Arizona of armed robbery, a class two felony. Because his right to possess firearms had been restored after this conviction, this evidence was admitted for the purpose of validating the information in the Florida conviction records.
¶11 The Lake County conviction documents were certified, bore Beagle's full name, his date of birth, and place of birth, all of which are identical to the information on his current fingerprint card. The fingerprint card and the Lake County documents contained a similar physical description, listing Beagle as a white male, with brown hair, with green or hazel eyes, and over six-foot three inches tall and more than two-hundred and thirty pounds. The black Chrysler listed in the Lake County documents is the same make, model and color of car Beagle was driving in the instant case.
¶12 The Volusia County documents list the same then-current address for Beagle as the Lake County documents, the same first and last name, the same birth date, the same place of birth, and a similar physical description. The Volusia County documents also refer to a black Chrysler, to a defendant who was concealing a weapon in his shirt, and to the defendant's statement that he had "an open court case in Lake [C]ounty after being arrested on a warrant for fleeing and eluding law enforcement."
¶13 At his prior convictions trial, Beagle was found to have a historical prior felony conviction in Lake County, Florida. Beagle was convicted and sentenced as described above. We have jurisdiction under A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21(A)(1), 13-4031, and 13-4033(A).
¶14 Beagle argues that the trial court erred by not precluding his statements obtained in violation of his Miranda rights, both those before he was read his rights and after. We review the admissibility of evidence for an abuse of discretion, State v. Rutledge, 205 Ariz. 7, ¶ 15 (2003), but we review legal conclusions, such as whether a Miranda violation occurred, de novo, State v. Newell, 212 Ariz. 389, ¶ 27 (2006).
¶15 Here, assuming without deciding that Beagle's Miranda rights were violated and that the trial court should have precluded his statements, such error would be harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Ross, 180 Ariz. 598, 604 (1994) (even without defendant's confession, "the physical and circumstantial evidence supports his conviction").
Although Beagle argues that his post-Miranda statements should be precluded as well, we do not address that argument because his statements are unnecessary to support his conviction and nothing in the record indicates that the trial court considered them. See State v. Bogan, 183 Ariz. 506, 515 (App. 1995) (unnecessary to reach issue where any error is manifestly harmless).
¶16 Beagle was convicted of weapons misconduct, which required proof that he knowingly possessed a deadly weapon as a prohibited possessor. See A.R.S. § 13-3102(A)(4). A prohibited possessor is a person "[w]ho has been convicted within or without this state of felony . . . and whose civil rights to possess or carry a gun or firearm has not been restored." A.R.S. § 13-3101(A)(7)(b).
¶17 At trial, Beagle's felony convictions in Volusia and Lake Counties were admitted. Although, Beagle challenged the convictions for purposes of the state using them as prior historical felonies, he did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence of the existence of the Volusia County conviction. As such, there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Beagle was a prohibited possessor. See A.R.S. § 13-3101(A)(7)(b). Additionally, testimony and the admitted body-cam videos demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed a deadly weapon—a loaded pistol—at the time he was prohibited possessor. See A.R.S. § 13-3102(A)(4).
Beagle did challenge the sufficiency of the Lake County conviction due to the latent print examiner's inability to match fingerprints. Nonetheless, proof of just one felony conviction will support his conviction for weapons misconduct. See A.R.S. §§ 13-3101(A)(7)(b) and 13-3102(A)(4). --------
Prior Historical Conviction
¶18 Beagle was exposed to a sentencing enhancement because of his prior felony conviction in Lake County pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-703. The state must provide clear and convincing evidence of any historical prior felony convictions before a trial court may enhance a defendant's sentence. See State v. Cons, 208 Ariz. 409, ¶ 15 (App. 2004). And two facts must be proven: (1) the defendant in the present case and the one in the prior case are the same individual, and (2) there was in fact a prior conviction. See State v. Hooper, 145 Ariz. 538, 549-50 (1985). "The proper procedure for establishing a prior conviction is for the state to submit a certified copy of the conviction and establish that the defendant is the person to whom the document refers." Cons, 208 Ariz. 409, ¶ 16.
¶19 For the trial court to find clear and convincing evidence, it must "be persuaded that the truth of the contention is highly probable." State v. Roque, 213 Ariz. 193, ¶ 75 (2006) (quoting In re Neville, 147 Ariz. 106, 111 (1985) (internal quotation omitted)), abrogated on other grounds by State v. Escalante-Orzco, 241 Ariz. 254 (2017). Beagle argues that the trial court erred by finding that the prior conviction in Lake County was established by clear and convincing evidence because the state's fingerprint technician was unable to match his fingerprints to those in the Lake County conviction records. We defer to the trial court's factual findings and will not disturb them so long as they are supported by substantial evidence and not clearly erroneous. State v. Rodriguez, 205 Ariz. 392, ¶ 18 (App. 2003).
¶20 Although Beagle challenged the use of the Volusia County conviction as a historical prior conviction, he did not challenge the accuracy or admissibility of the records for other purposes. The fingerprint card in the Volusia County records and those in the Pima County conviction records match those fingerprints known to be Beagle's. The Volusia County records refer to Beagle's prior conviction in Lake County in a way that sufficiently identified Beagle as the defendant in the Lake County case. Thus, the matching, identifying information in Beagle's fingerprint card, adduced at trial, and in the documents from Pima, Lake, and Volusia Counties establish by clear and convincing evidence that Beagle was the person to whom the Lake County documents refer. See State v. Kinney, 225 Ariz. 550, ¶ 26 (App. 2010) (matching name and date of birth established prior conviction occurring in the same area as the instant offense). Thus, Beagle's prior conviction was established by sufficient evidence and the trial court did not err.
¶21 For the foregoing reasons, we affirm Beagle's conviction and sentence.