Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Treptow v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

December 1, 2017

MATTHEW JAMES TREPTOW, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

         Appeal from the Superior Court No. 3AN-13-10472 CR, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Michael L. Wolverton, Judge.

          J. Adam Bartlett, Anchorage, under contract with the Office of Public Advocacy, for the Appellant.

          Terisia K. Chleborad, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

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

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER, JUDGE.

         Matthew James Treptow appeals his conviction for felony driving under the influence.[1] Treptow's offense was classified as a felony because he had two prior convictions for DUI within the preceding ten years, one from Alaska and one from Arizona.

         In this appeal, Treptow argues that his Arizona DUI conviction should not be counted because of a purported difference between Arizona law and Alaska law.

         Under Arizona law, a person charged with a crime (felony or misdemeanor) is entitled to waive their right to a jury trial, but only with the consent of the government and the approval of the court.[2] Treptow acknowledges that Alaska law is the same with respect to defendants charged with felonies, but Treptow asserts that misdemeanor defendants in Alaska have an absolute right to demand a bench trial, even when the government and the court do not consent.

         Based on this purported difference between Alaska law and Arizona law, Treptow argues that Arizona DUI convictions do not qualify as "prior convictions" for purposes of Alaska's felony DUI law.

         For the reasons explained in this opinion, we conclude that Treptow's argument is based on a misreading of Alaska Criminal Rule 23(a). We hold that, under Criminal Rule 23(a), a defendant's waiver of jury trial must be approved by both the government and the court, regardless of whether the defendant is being tried for a felony or a misdemeanor.

         The rule at issue: Alaska Criminal Rule 23(a)

         Alaska Criminal Rule 23(a) states:

(a) Trial by Jury. Cases required to be tried by jury shall be so tried unless the defendant waives a jury trial. In felony cases, the waiver must be in writing with the approval of the court and the consent of the state. In misdemeanor cases, the waiver may be in writing or made on the record in open court.

         As can be seen, the second sentence of Rule 23(a) says that a felony defendant's waiver of jury trial is conditioned on three things: (1) the waiver must be in writing; (2) the court must approve; and (3) the state must consent.

         The third sentence of Rule 23(a) then says that, in misdemeanor cases, the waiver may either be in writing or made on the record in open court.

         Because the third sentence of Rule 23(a) does not expressly reiterate the requirements of "approval of the court" and "consent of the state", Treptow interprets the rule as saying that these elements are not required in misdemeanor cases. According to Treptow, Criminal Rule 23(a) gives misdemeanor defendants an absolute right to waive a jury and demand a bench trial, regardless of whether the court and the state consent.

         But the third sentence of Rule 23(a) could reasonably be interpreted in a different light: it could be read as simply relaxing the "writing" requirement that governs waivers of jury trial in felony cases - so that, in misdemeanor cases, jury waivers can be either written or oral.

         To resolve this ambiguity, we have examined the legislative history of Alaska Criminal Rule 23(a). For the reasons we are about to explain, we conclude that when a defendant wishes to waive the right to a jury trial, Criminal Rule 23(a) requires the approval of the court and the consent of the government in all cases - both felonies and misdemeanors.

         The pre-statehood history of Alaska Criminal Rule 23(a)

         The history of Alaska Criminal Rule 23(a) begins in 1930, when the United States Supreme Court decided Patton v. United States, 281 U.S. 276, 50 S.Ct. 253, 74 L.Ed. 854 (1930).

         The issue addressed in Patton was whether, consistent with the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of jury trial, a criminal defendant could ever waive their right to have a jury decide their case. The underlying question (as framed by the Supreme Court) was whether the guarantee of jury trial should be viewed as a fundamental aspect of the form of government guaranteed by the federal constitution, or whether the guarantee of jury trial should be viewed as a personal right of a criminal defendant - a right that could be waived.[3]

         At common law, a defendant was not allowed to waive a jury trial.[4] And in 1930, at the time of the Patton decision, there was still significant judicial authority holding that the right of jury trial could not be waived - on the ground that the jury was an essential aspect of a properly constituted criminal tribunal.[5] But in Patton, the Supreme Court rejected this view of the law and held that the right to jury trial was a right conferred on defendants, and that it could be waived.[6]

         However, the Supreme Court declared that a defendant's right to waive a jury trial was not absolute. The Court cautioned that having a jury sit as the fact-finder in a criminal case is not simply a right of the defendant; it is also an important element of the criminal justice system itself. Thus, both the trial judge and the government should have to approve any waiver of jury trial offered by a defendant:

Trial by jury is the normal and, with occasional exceptions, the preferable mode of disposing of issues of fact in criminal cases above the grade of petty offenses. ... [T]he value and appropriateness of jury trial have been established by long experience, and are not now to be denied. Not only must the right of the accused to a trial by a constitutional jury be jealously preserved, but the maintenance of the jury as a fact-finding body in criminal cases is of such importance and has such a place in our traditions, that, before any waiver can become effective, the consent of government counsel and the sanction of the court must be had, in addition to the express and intelligent consent of the defendant. And the duty of the trial court in that regard is not to be discharged as a mere matter of rote, but with sound and advised discretion, with an eye to avoid unreasonable or undue departures from that mode of trial or from any of the essential elements thereof, and with a caution increasing in degree as the offenses dealt with increase in gravity.

Patton, 281 U.S. at 312-13, 50 S.Ct. at 263.

         In 1944, based on the Supreme Court's decision in Patton, Congress enacted Federal Criminal Rule 23(a) - a rule based on the Patton decision.

         Originally, Federal Criminal Rule 23(a) stated, "Cases required to be tried by jury shall be so tried unless the defendant waives a jury trial in writing with the approval of the court and the consent of the government."[7] Because Alaska was a federal territory at the time, Federal Criminal Rule 23(a) was the law that governed criminal trials in Alaska.

         In its current version, Federal Criminal Rule 23(a) states:

(a) Jury Trial. If the defendant is entitled to a jury trial, the trial must be by jury unless:
(1) the defendant waives a jury trial in writing;
(2) the government consents; ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.