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People v. Garcia

Court of Appeals of Colorado, First Division

January 12, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Juvenal Onel Garcia, Defendant-Appellant.

         Boulder County District Court No. 12CR76 Honorable Roxanne Bailin, Judge


          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, William G. Kozeliski, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Ned R. Jaeckle, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant


          ¶ 1 Defendant, Juvenal Onel Garcia, appeals his convictions of first degree burglary, attempted sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, third degree assault, violation of a protection order, and obstruction of telephone service; his sentences for attempted sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact; and an order designating him a sexually violent predator (SVP). We affirm the convictions and sentences and remand for reconsideration of the SVP designation.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 Garcia and the victim met in middle school and married after the victim turned eighteen. In August 2010, a protection order was issued that prohibited Garcia from contacting the victim. However, on occasion in April 2012, he would go to the victim's home to watch their children. One night, Garcia was late. When he arrived, the victim told him to leave because he had been drinking. Instead, he took her car keys and left. The victim eventually reported her car stolen after he did not return for several hours.

         ¶ 3 When Garcia came back, they physically struggled. According to the victim, Garcia forcefully tried to take off her clothes and initiate sexual intercourse but she fought him off, and he abruptly stood up and masturbated. They then resumed arguing, he prevented her from calling 911, and he left, again taking her car. According to Garcia, their sexual contact was consensual and he voluntarily ended it before leaving. The victim was taken to the hospital.

         ¶ 4 At his March 2013 trial, Garcia was convicted as noted above and was sentenced to a term of ten years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The trial court designated him an SVP. Garcia raises the following issues: (1) the trial court erred by failing to apply the "knowingly" mens rea to the "caused submission" element of the offenses of burglary and attempted sexual assault; (2) Garcia's conviction and sentence for class 4 attempted sexual assault and class 4 unlawful sexual contact must be vacated because the jury did not find that he knowingly used force to cause submission; (3) Garcia was improperly convicted of class 4 attempted sexual assault and class 4 unlawful sexual contact because the jury was not correctly instructed concerning force related to each offense, and therefore his convictions were unconstitutionally elevated; (4) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury that "knowingly" applied to every element of the offense of violation of a protection order; and (5) the trial court erred in designating Garcia an SVP because he never established or promoted his relationship with the victim for purposes of sexual victimization as required by the statute.

         II. Mens Rea for "Caused Submission"

         ¶ 5 Garcia contends that the trial court erred in not applying "knowingly" to every element of the offense of sexual assault, including the "caused submission" element of this offense. We perceive no reversible error.

         ¶ 6 At trial, the jury was instructed on the elements of sexual assault as follows:

1.That the defendant, the State of Colorado at or about the date and place charged,
3.knowingly, inflicted sexual penetration, or sexual intrusion, on a person, and
4.caused submission of the person by means of sufficient consequence reasonably calculated to cause submission against the person's will.

         The instructions did not set off "knowingly" as a separate element of the offense. The instructions also informed the jury that, if it found Garcia guilty of attempted sexual assault, it should determine whether he attempted "to cause submission of the person through the actual application of physical force or physical violence."

          A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 7 We review de novo whether instructions accurately informed the jury of the law. People v. Lucas, 232 P.3d 155, 162 (Colo.App. 2009). Where a defendant does not object to an erroneous jury instruction, review is under the plain error standard and reversal is required when the error is obvious and substantial. People v. Garcia, 28 P.3d 340, 344 (Colo. 2001). A defendant must show that an error was "so clear cut, so obvious, a trial judge should be able to avoid it without benefit of objection." People v. Ujaama, 2012 COA 36, ¶ 42, 302 P.3d 296, 304. A defendant also has the burden of establishing that the error was "seriously prejudicial, " that is, "so grave that it undermines the fundamental fairness of the trial itself so as to cast serious doubt on the reliability of the conviction." Id. at ¶ 43, 302 P.3d at 305.

         B. Applicable Law

         ¶ 8 When a statutory offense such as sexual assault specifies a mental state, unless otherwise stated in its text, the culpable mental state applies to every element. Copeland v. People, 2 P.3d 1283, 1286 (Colo. 2000).

          C. Analysis

         ¶ 9 Based on the jury instructions that existed at the time of trial in this case and the language of the statute, we find no plain error.

         ¶ 10 Garcia raises a fair point that offsetting "knowingly" in the jury instructions effectively demonstrates that it applies to every element of the offense. The current Colorado Model Jury Instructions indeed offset "knowingly" as a separate element to indicate that it applies to every other element of the offense. See COLJI-Crim. 3-4:01 (2015). However, the Colorado Model Jury Instructions applicable at the time of Garcia's trial did not offset "knowingly" from the other elements of the offense. See COLJI-Crim. 3-4:01 (2008). The instructions used at Garcia's trial match those in the Model Jury Instructions that existed at that time. Although "[t]he [model] instructions [had] not been approved as accurate reflections of the law, " they were "intended as helpful resource material for both courts and criminal practitioners in their preparation of instructions for specific cases and should be used accordingly." Preface, COLJI-Crim. (2008).

          ¶ 11 Considering those model jury instructions, we conclude that any error in the jury instructions not defining "knowingly" as a separate ...

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