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State v. McKinley

January 21, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
RODNEY JEROME MCKINLEY, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-1-07268-9. Date filed: 01/09/96. Judge signing: Hon. James A. Noe, JR.

Authored by Faye C. Kennedy. Concurring: C. Kenneth Grosse, Ann L. Ellington.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennedy

KENNEDY, A.C.J. -- Rodney McKinley appeals his conviction of one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree, arguing that his prior juvenile adjudication of guilt of second degree robbery did not constitute a predicate conviction for purposes of the unlawful possession of a firearm statute, and thus the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We conclude that a juvenile adjudication of guilt constitutes a conviction for purposes of the 1995 version of the unlawful possession statute, and accordingly affirm McKinley's conviction.

FACTS

On October 24, 1995, the State charged Rodney McKinley with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree, in violation of former RCW 9.41.040(1)(a). The information alleged that McKinley had previously been convicted of second degree robbery, a serious offense under RCW 9.41.010(11)(12)(a).

On January 8, 1996, McKinley brought a motion to dismiss the charge, arguing that his prior juvenile adjudication of guilt of second degree robbery did not constitute a predicate conviction for purposes of the unlawful possession of a firearm statute then in effect. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and McKinley proceeded to a stipulated facts trial. After reviewing the police reports and a certified copy of the juvenile order of Disposition, the trial court found McKinley guilty as charged. He was sentenced within the standard range, and this timely appeal followed.

Discussion

McKinley contends that there is insufficient evidence to support his conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree, arguing that his prior juvenile adjudication of guilt of second degree robbery did not constitute a predicate conviction for purposes of the unlawful possession of a firearm statute in effect at the time of his conviction.

McKinley was convicted of violating Washington's Uniform Firearms Act, Ch. 9.41 RCW, which governs the possession, use, and purchase of firearms and dangerous weapons. Although the Act was originally enacted in 1935, the Legislature has amended it several times since that date. The 1995 version of the Act was in effect when McKinley was convicted. It provided, in pertinent part:

(1)(a) A person, whether an adult or juvenile, is guilty of the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree, if the person owns, has in his or her possession, or has in his or her control any firearm after having previously been convicted in this state or elsewhere of any serious offense as defined in this chapter, residential burglary, reckless endangerment in the first degree, any felony violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, chapter 69.50 RCW, classified as a class A or class B felony, or with a maximum sentence of at least ten years, or both, or equivalent statutes of another jurisdiction, except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) or (4) of this section;

(3) As used in this section, a person has been "convicted" at such time as a plea of guilty has been accepted or a verdict of guilty has been filed, notwithstanding the pendency of any future proceedings including but not limited to sentencing or Disposition, post-trial or post-factfinding motions, and appeals.

Former RCW 9.41.040 (emphasis added).

Under the 1995 Act, the State thus bore the burden of establishing, as the predicate offense, that McKinley had been convicted of a "serious offense" as defined in Ch. 9.41 RCW. Although McKinley concedes that second degree robbery is a serious offense within the meaning of the Uniform Firearms Act, he contends that RCW 9.41.040 "plainly and unambiguously" applies only when the predicate offense is an adult conviction. Brief of Appellant at 6. McKinley thus argues that his prior juvenile adjudication of second degree robbery did not constitute a "conviction" for purposes of RCW 9.41.040.

McKinley cites State v. Schaaf, 109 Wash. 2d 1, 743 P.2d 240 (1987), and In re Frederick, 93 Wash. 2d 28, 604 P.2d 953 (1980) in support of his argument that a juvenile cannot be "convicted" of a crime. McKinley's reliance on these cases is misplaced. In both Schaaf and Frederick, our Supreme Court held that a juvenile offender cannot be convicted of a felony. Schaaf, 109 Wash. 2d at 8; Frederick, 93 Wash. 2d at 30. RCW 9.41.040(1)(a), however, does not speak in terms of felonies. It requires only that an offender have previously been convicted of a "serious offense." RCW 9.41.040(1)(a) (emphasis added). The term "offense" applies equally to adult and juvenile crimes. See In re A,B,C,D,E, 121 Wash. 2d 80, 87, 847 P.2d 455 (1993).

When statutory language is used in an unambiguous manner, this court will not look beyond the plain meaning of the words. In re A,B,C,D,E, 121 Wash. 2d at 87. Although the parties urge differing results in the present case, both argue that RCW 9.41.040 is unambiguous. We disagree. Because the statute refers explicitly to juveniles in the prefatory language, the Legislature's use of the term "convicted" in RCW 9.41.040(1)(a) creates an inherent ambiguity requiring judicial construction.

In construing a statute, the court's paramount duty is to give effect to the intent of the Legislature. In re A,B,C,D,E, 121 Wash. 2d at 88; City of Yakima v. International Ass'n of Fire Fighters Local 469, 117 Wash. 2d 655, 669, 818 P.2d 1076 (1991). If the intent of the Legislature is not clear from the words of the statute, resort to legislative history and other aids of construction is appropriate. Biggs v. Vail, 119 Wash. 2d 129, 134, 830 P.2d 350 (1992). To help clarify the original intent of a statute, the court may also turn to the statute's subsequent history. Littlejohn Constr. Co. v. ...


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