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State v. Fulton

Supreme Court of Maine

January 18, 2018


          Reporter of Decisions

          Argued: September 14, 2017

          Tina Heather Nadeau, Esq. (orally), The Law Office of Tina Heather Nadeau, PLLC, Portland, for appellant Dylan Fulton

          Todd R. Collins, District Attorney, and Carrie L. Linthicum, Dep. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District 8, Presque Isle, for appellee State of Maine


          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] Dylan Fulton appeals from a judgment adjudicating him of the juvenile crime of gross sexual assault (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 253(1)(C) (2017); see also 15 M.R.S. § 3103(1) (2017) (defining "juvenile crime"), entered by the Juvenile Court[1] (Presque Isle, O'Mara, J.) following an adjudicatory hearing. We affirm the judgment.

         [¶2] Contrary to Fultons contention, the evidence-viewed in the light most favorable to the State, see State v. Milliken, 2010 ME 1, ¶ 19, 985 A.2d 1152-was sufficient for the court to rationally find beyond a reasonable doubt that the State proved every element of the offense and that the crime occurred within the period of limitations, see 17-A M.R.S. § 101(1) (2017); 15M.R.S. §3105-A(2017).

         [¶3] Fulton also asserts that the court deprived him of due process when it denied his motion for production of Department of Health and Human Services records without conducting an in camera review. The court did not abuse its discretion denying Fultons motion, see State v. Dube, 2014 ME 43, ¶ 8, 87 A.3d 1219, because even if Fulton had filed the motion pursuant to M.R.U. Crim. P. 17A(f), [2] rather than 22 M.R.S. § 4008(3)(A-1) (2017), he would not have made the preliminary showing of relevancy, admissibility, and specificity required by Rule 17A(f). See also State v. Marroquin-Aldana, 2014 ME 47, ¶ 34, 89 A.3d 519; Dube, 2014 ME 43, ¶ 9, 87 A.3d 1219 (when a defendant does not satisfy the requirements of Rule 17A(f), "a trial court may restrict [the defendants] right to compulsory process without impairing his constitutional rights to due process and to confront witnesses.").

         [¶4] Finally, Fulton argues that the investigative and adjudicatory processes and the outcome of this case do not comport with the policies of the Juvenile Code. See 15 M.R.S. § 3002 (2017). Because this argument was not raised in the Juvenile Court, we review for obvious error and find none. See State v. Corrieri, 654 A.2d 419, 422 (Me. 1995).

         [¶5] Although we summarily dispose of Fultons essential challenges on appeal, we write to address one aspect of the latter argument: that the reach of the juvenile offense of gross sexual assault at issue here is too broad because it allows for the prosecution of minors who may be too young to be appropriately subject to the juvenile justice system.

          [¶6] As Fulton acknowledges, thirty years ago we rejected a similar challenge to the since-repealed crime of gross sexual misconduct, see 17-AM.R.S. § 253(1)(B) (1983), [3] which criminalized a sexual act committed against a person younger than fourteen years old and not the offenders spouse, but without setting a minimum age of the offender. See State v. Edward C, 531 A.2d 672 (Me. 1987). In that case, the juvenile-who was thirteen years old at the time of the offense-argued that the Legislatures purpose underlying that statute was to "criminalize the exploitation of children, not to penalize the children themselves." Id. at 673. We concluded that there was "much merit in this argument" but that the plain language of the statute could not be read to set a minimum age of the accused. Id. at 673-74.

         [¶7] The same is true with respect to the definition of gross sexual assault found in section 253(1)(C), which states: "A person is guilty of gross sexual assault if that person engages in a sexual act with another person and... [t]he other person, not the actors spouse, has not in fact attained 12 years of age." By the plain terms of this statute, any person-regardless of age-can be prosecuted for this crime.[4] Thus, the concern we acknowledged in Edward C. persists and may call for an examination of whether parameters should be legislatively imposed on the universe of juveniles who may be considered truly culpable for the conduct proscribed by section 253(1)(C) and brought into the juvenile justice system.

         [¶8] The concern is particularly acute because section 253(1)(C) criminalizes the conduct-the actus reus-by itself. Therefore, unlike nearly all other statutes that define major crimes, this offense is nominally a strict liability crime because it does not require the State to prove any culpable mental state. See State v. Proia,2017 ME 169, ¶ 11 n.3, 168 A.3d 798; State v. Morrison,2016 ME 47, ¶ 4 n.1, 135 A.3d 343. The absence of an explicit mens rea requirement in section 253(1)(C) does not mean, however, that the Legislature intended the statute to apply even when the proscribed conduct is not accompanied by culpability. To the contrary, sexual offenses that do not include an explicit mens rea element are still intended to criminalize conduct that is inherently aberrant and, at least impliedly, signifies fault. See State v. Saucier,421 A.2d 57, 59 (Me. 1980) (recognizing that the ...

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