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Stiner v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

January 27, 2017

STEVEN WARREN STINER, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

         Appeal from the Superior Court, First Judicial District, Juneau, Trial Court No. 1JU-12-384 CR Philip M. Pallenberg, Judge.

          Doug Miller, Law Office of Douglas S. Miller, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

          Eric A. Ringsmuth, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

          Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Suddock, Superior Court Judge. [*]

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER, Judge

         While Steven Warren Stiner was on bail release pending the appeal of his conviction for a felony assault, the police stopped his truck for a traffic infraction. One of the officers who conducted the stop observed a pistol barrel resting against Stiner's right leg. The police seized this pistol and they arrested Stiner.

         Following a bench trial, Stiner was found guilty of three crimes relating to his possession of this firearm: felon in possession of a concealable firearm, and two counts of violating the conditions of his release (the condition that he obey all laws, and the condition that he not possess firearms).[1]

         At Stiner's sentencing, his attorney asked the superior court to enter a single merged conviction for all three crimes. The superior court granted this motion in part. The court ruled that Stiner should receive only one merged conviction for violating the two conditions of his release, but the court ruled that this conviction should not merge with the felon-in-possession verdict. The court reasoned that the societal harms presented by the two offenses (violating bail conditions versus possessing a concealable firearm as a felon) were sufficiently distinct that Stiner's conduct would support two separate convictions. Stiner now appeals that decision.

         Why we conclude that Stiner's conduct supports two convictions

         Stiner argues that, under Alaska's double jeopardy clause as construed by our supreme court in Whitton v. State, [2] it is improper for him to receive two convictions for his single act of possessing a firearm.

         Whitton and the later cases construing Whitton address the situation where a defendant's single act violates separate criminal statutes. These cases provide the framework for deciding whether a sentencing court should enter separate convictions for the separate statutory violations, or whether separate convictions would constitute a prohibited double punishment under the double jeopardy clause.

         Under Whitton, a court must focus on the societal interests advanced or protected by the statutes that were violated, and decide whether those statutory interests are sufficiently distinct to support separate convictions.[3]

         In Stiner's case, we agree with the superior court that Stiner's violation of his bail conditions implicated a societal interest that is substantially different from society's interest in prohibiting felons from possessing concealable firearms. Aside from the fact that Stiner was a convicted felon who was prohibited from possessing handguns, Stiner had secured his release pending appeal by promising to abide by various bail conditions. The court (and the public) had an independent interest in having those bail conditions enforced, not only to punish Stiner personally for his knowing disregard of those conditions, but also to deter future defendants from violating their ...


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