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State v. Michael Todd Forest

February 10, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 93-1-06556-2. Date filed: 06/14/94. Judge signing: Hon. George T. Mattson.

Petition for Review Denied October 13, 1997,

Authored by Ronald E. Cox. Concurring: Ann L. Ellington, Walter E. Webster.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cox

COX, J. -- Michael Forest appeals his judgment and sentence for two counts of delivery of cocaine. He claims that the trial court erred by admitting a recording of the transaction that was the basis for count II because the police violated the agency authorization statute by recording more than one conversation. We affirm his conviction and dismiss the personal restraint petition.

In April 1993, based on information from a confidential informant, Detective Kathleen Larson of the King County police was investigating drug sales by Forest. On April 21, she drove the informant to an apartment to buy cocaine from Forest using money that the police provided. Larson waited outside the apartment during the transaction. The informant then emerged and gave Larson the cocaine he had purchased.

On April 28, Detective Gerald Watkins sought authorization from Chief Frank Adamson of the King County police to record a transaction with Forest under RCW 9.73.230, the agency one-party consent statute. To that end, Watkins had the same informant who had participated in the April 21 transaction sign a statement that he consented to participate in the recording of the anticipated telephone conversation and a subsequent drug transaction. The informant then called Forest and a codefendant and arranged to purchase cocaine at a movie theater later that evening.

Several detectives and the informant proceeded to the movie theater at the appointed time. The informant, who was wearing a body wire, entered Forest's car and purchased $500 worth of cocaine. The detectives observed the transaction. In addition, a police officer videotaped and monitored the recording from the informant's body wire. The police then arrested Forest and his codefendant.

The State charged Forest with two counts of delivery of cocaine based on the transactions on April 21 and 28. At trial, Forest moved to suppress the recordings of the April 28 telephone call and transaction, claiming that the agency authorization statute contemplates only one recording per authorization. The trial court granted the motion and ruled that the recording of the telephone call was admissible but that the recording of the transaction at the movie theater was inadmissible. Upon reconsideration, the trial court reversed its earlier ruling and ruled that both recordings were admissible. The jury convicted Forest on both counts.

The trial court then sentenced him within the standard range to concurrent 78-month terms.

Forest's sole claim in his appeal is that the agency authorization for recording the April 28 transaction did not comply with RCW 9.73.230. He purports to appeal his conviction on both counts but offers no specific challenge or argument regarding the count involving the earlier, unrecorded transaction. Accordingly, we consider only the second count. *fn1

Multiple Conversations

Forest argues that the trial court erred by admitting the recordings because the authorization contemplated recording two conversations, one by telephone to arrange the transaction and a second that was the transaction itself. He claims that the statute governing agency authorizations allows the police to record only one conversation per authorization. We disagree.

Statutory construction is a question of law subject to de novo review. *fn2 The primary objective of statutory construction is to carry out the intent of the Legislature by examining the language of the statute. *fn3 Unless a contrary intent appears, this court will give words their plain meaning. *fn4 To ascertain the plain meaning of a word where the statute does not define it, a court may use a dictionary. *fn5 All provisions of an act must be considered in their relation to each other, and, if possible, harmonized to ensure proper construction for each provision. *fn6 Courts should avoid strained, unlikely, or unrealistic consequences. *fn7 Likewise, statutes should not be construed "so as to render any portion meaningless or superfluous." *fn8

Washington's privacy act generally prohibits recording private conversations without the consent of all of the parties to the conversation. *fn9 The act does, however, allow the police to record conversations about drug transactions without prior judicial approval under certain conditions. In its statutory statement of purpose, the Legislature detailed the growth in illegal drug sales and the ...

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