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Forsythe v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

January 27, 2017

NICHOLAS FORSYTHE, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

         Appeal from the District Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Trial Court No. 4FA-12-3374 CR Patrick S. Hammers, Judge.

          David D. Reineke, under contract with the Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

          David Buettner, Assistant District Attorney, Fairbanks, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

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

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER, Judge

         On November 5, 2012, Alaska Railroad Special Agent Kathy Kraft received a report that a car was "spinning brodies" in a parking lot owned by the railroad.[1] When Kraft drove her patrol car to the property, she found a dark-colored j eep parked in a corner of the lot.

         Kraft tried to make contact with the driver (who turned out to be Nicholas Forsythe), but he began to drive away. Kraft then activated the overhead lights of her patrol car (as a signal for Forsythe to stop), but Forsythe continued driving away. Thinking that Forsythe might not have observed her flashing lights, Kraft activated her siren - but Forsythe still failed to stop. Kraft then pulled alongside Forsythe and, using her hands, directed him to pull over. Forsythe responded by shaking his head "no", and he continued to drive.

         Kraft decided to radio the Alaska State Troopers for assistance. Even after a trooper patrol car arrived on the scene and signaled Forsythe to stop, Forsythe continued driving for approximately another mile before he finally pulled over.

         Based on these events, Forsythe was charged with failing to stop at the direction of a peace officer, AS 28.35.182(b), for failing to pull over when he was directed to do so by Special Agent Kraft.

         At Forsythe's trial, after the State presented its evidence, Forsythe's attorney sought a judgement of acquittal, arguing that Kraft was not a "peace officer" for purposes of AS 28.35.182. The district court denied the defense attorney's motion, and Forsythe was convicted. Now, on appeal, Forsythe renews his claim that the State's evidence was legally insufficient because Kraft was not a peace officer.

         This Court recently issued an opinion - Sapp v. State, 379 P.3d 1000 (Alaska App. 2016) - in which we addressed the question of what types of officials qualify as "peace officers" for purposes of AS 28.35.182.

         In Sapp, we held that this question is controlled by the definition of "peace officer" codified in AS 01.10.060(7).[2] This statute contains six subsections - (A) through (F) - each of which specify a different type of official who qualifies as a peace officer.

         The subsection of the statute that applies to Forsythe's case is subsection (F), which declares that the term "peace officer" includes "[any] officer whose duty it is to enforce and preserve the public peace". In Sapp, we interpreted subsection (F) as encompassing only "publicly employed law enforcement officers who have full police responsibility and who spend substantially all of their working hours performing these police functions."[3]

         The question in Forsythe's case, then, is whether the evidence presented at Forsythe's trial was sufficient to establish that Kraft was a publicly employed law enforcement officer who had full police responsibility and who spent ...


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