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State v. Cannady

Supreme Court of Maine

July 26, 2018

STATE OF MAINE
v.
DMITRI L. CANNADY

          Argued: November 15, 2017

          Tina Heather Nadeau, Esq. (orally), The Law Office of Tina Heather Nadeau, PLLC, Portland, for appellant Dmitri L. Cannady

          Stephanie Anderson, District Attorney, and Jennifer F. Ackerman, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District Two, Portland, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HJELM, J.

         [¶1] In 2004, the Secretary of State mailed a notice to Dmitri L. Cannady's last known address, with information that his right to operate a motor vehicle was about to be revoked. The letter was returned by postal officials to the Secretary of State's office with a notice on the envelope that Cannady had moved and left no forwarding address. More than eleven years later, Cannady was stopped for a traffic violation and subsequently charged with operating after habitual offender revocation (Class D), 29-A M.R.S. § 2557-A(2)(A) (2017), and failing to give his correct name (Class E), 17-A M.R.S. § 15-A(2) (2017); 29-A M.R.S. § 105(4) (2017).[1] After holding a jury-waived trial, the court (Cumberland County, L. Walker, J.) convicted him of both charges.

         [¶2] This appeal by Cannady calls for us to answer the narrow question of whether the statutory requirement of notice is satisfied where the Secretary of State elects to mail the notification to the licensee's most recent address on file with the Secretary of State pursuant to 29-A M.R.S. § 2557-A(1)(A)(4) (2017) and that notification is returned by postal authorities as undeliverable. We conclude that, in those particular circumstances, the statutory notification process necessary for a conviction for operating after habitual offender revocation has not been satisfied. We therefore vacate the conviction for that charge but affirm the conviction for failing to give his correct name.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶3] The following facts found by the court are supported by the record, which we view in the light most favorable to the judgment. See State v. Jeskey, 2016 ME 134, ¶¶ 30, 33, 146 A.3d 127. A Portland police officer working the evening shift on December 4, 2015, pulled into a convenience store parking lot on Forest Avenue. The officer observed a person, later identified as Cannady, drive a vehicle out of the parking lot without wearing his seatbelt. After making a traffic stop for the seatbelt violation, 29-A M.R.S. § 2081(3-A) (2017), the officer asked Cannady for his name and identification documents. Cannady provided a false name and had difficulty providing an address, phone number, and social security number. Because the officer was unable to verify Cannady's identity with the name Cannady had given, the officer detained Cannady and transported him to the jail for fingerprinting. A cruiser video recording shows that while en route to the jail, Cannady admitted to the officer that he was not the person whose name he had provided. After Cannady identified himself correctly, the officer learned from the dispatcher that Cannady's license had been revoked and that there was an outstanding warrant for failing to appear on an earlier revocation charge.

         [¶4] The State charged Cannady with operating after habitual offender revocation and failing to give his correct name. Cannady entered pleas of not guilty. At a jury-waived trial held in December of 2016, only the officer testified. The court admitted in evidence a certification from the Secretary of State's office stating that Cannady's license had been revoked as of the alleged offense date and that notice of that revocation had been sent to Cannady in conformity with 29-A M.R.S. §2482(1)(A) (2017); a notice of revocation dated July 21, 2004, addressed to Cannady and stating that his driver's license or right to operate will be revoked for an indefinite period effective August 5, 2004;[3] and an envelope bearing a postmark of July 26, 2004, which had been returned to the Secretary of State on August 11, 2004, with the notation, "MOVED LEFT NO ADDRESS UNABLE TO FORWARD RETURN TO SENDER."

         [¶5] At the close of the State's case, Cannady moved for a judgment of acquittal on the charge of operating after habitual offender revocation on the grounds that he did not have actual knowledge that his license had been revoked and that the Secretary of State had failed to take appropriate steps to provide that notice to him after the written notice of revocation was returned as undeliverable. In a written order, the court denied Cannady's motion and found him guilty of both charges. At the sentencing hearing, the court imposed the mandatory minimum thirty-day jail term and $500 fine on the charge of operating after habitual offender revocation and a concurrent seven-day jail sentence on the charge of failure to give his correct name. Cannady filed a timely notice of appeal. See 15 M.R.S. §2115 (2017); M.R. App. P. 2(a)(3), (b)(2)(A) (Tower 2016).[4]

         II. DISCUSSION

         [¶6] Cannady asserts on appeal that pursuant to Maine's statutes and principles of due process-particularly given increases in the severity of sentences to be imposed for the crime of operating after habitual offender revocation[5]-the Secretary of State is required to do more when it is on notice that its chosen method of communication was unsuccessful and that the State is required to prove that the licensee has received or otherwise has actual knowledge of the revocation.

         [¶7] We review constitutional challenges de novo, see State v. Jones, 2012 ME 126, ¶ 35, 55 A.3d 432, and, on a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction, we look to "whether the trier of fact could have found every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt," State v. Tayman, 2008 ME 177, ¶ 4, 960 A.2d 1151. "The interpretation of a statute is a legal issue we review de novo." State v. Jones, 2012 ME 88, ¶ 6, 46 A.3d 1125. Criminal statutes are "'strictly construed ... to avoid absurd, illogical, or inconsistent results.'" Id. (quoting State v. Nastvogel, 2002 ME 97, ¶ 6, 798 A.2d 1114). Our purpose in interpreting a statute is "to effectuate the intent of the Legislature, which is ordinarily gleaned from the plain language of the statute." State v. Kendall, 2016 ME 147, ¶ 14, 148 A.3d 1230 (quotation marks omitted). "We examine [the] statutory language in the context of the entire statutory scheme." Id. Only if the statute is ambiguous do we look beyond the plain language to the legislative history. State v. Legassie, 2017 ME 202, ¶ 13, 171 A.3d 589. "A statute is ambiguous if it is reasonably susceptible to different interpretations." Carrier v. Sec'y of State, 2012 ME 142, ¶ 12, 60 A.3d 1241 (quotation marks omitted).

         [¶8] For a person to be convicted of the crime of operating after habitual offender revocation, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused operated a motor vehicle on a public way when that person's license to operate had been revoked. 29-A M.R.S. § 2557-A(1)(A) (2017). Additionally, and central to the issue in this case, the State must prove that the accused

(1) [h]as received written notice of the revocation from the Secretary of State;
(2) [h]as been orally informed of the revocation by a law enforcement officer;
(3) [h]as actual knowledge of the revocation; or
(4) [i]s a person to whom written notice was sent in accordance with section 2482 or former Title 29, section 2241, subsection 4.

29-A M.R.S. § 2557-A(1)(A) (emphasis added).

         [¶9] As section 2557-A(1)(A) is structured, the first three of these alternatives comprise various ways of providing the licensee with actual notice, whereas the fourth constitutes an attempt to provide notice. At oral argument, the State made explicit that it is not asserting that Cannady had actual knowledge that the Secretary of State had revoked his license, even though he had been convicted three times for operating after suspension, see supra n.3, and provided incorrect identification information to the officer in this case.

         Therefore, at issue here is only the last of the alternative elements prescribed in section 2557-A(1)(A)(4), which incorporates ...


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