Law School Case Brief
State v. Kubat - 158 Idaho 661, 350 P.3d 1038 (Idaho Ct. App. 2015)
When interpreting a rule of evidence, Idaho appellate courts apply the same standards of construction as are utilized with statutes. The court begins with an examination of the literal words of the rule and gives the language its plain, obvious, and rational meaning. A rule, like a statute, should be construed so that effect is given to its provisions and no part is rendered superfluous or insignificant.
Defendant Corey Steven Kubat was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver. At trial in Idaho state court, Kubat's girlfriend, Gil, who was a defense witness, testified that she had not seen drug paraphernalia found in the home at the time Kubat was arrested. Over Kubat's objection, Gil was asked by the State on cross-examination whether she had pleaded guilty to possessing paraphernalia in the home on that day. She conceded that she had pleaded guilty to that offense. From the testimony, it appeared that both Kubat and Gil had been hiding their drug-related activities from each other. After Gil testified, both parties rested. The jury returned a guilty verdict and Kubat was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment. Kubat appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by permitting the State to cross-examine the witness in that manner.
Did the trial court err when it allowed Gil's testimony as to her guilty plea?
The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court agreed with Kubat that evidence of Gil's conviction was not admissible under Idaho R. Evid. 609, which authorized admission of felony convictions, because Gil's conviction was for a misdemeanor. However, the court ruled, Rule 609 did not govern the admissibility of Gil's conviction because the State was not attempting to prove Gil less credible because she had committed a crime showing that she was, as a general matter, dishonest. Rather, the State was trying to question Gil's honesty about the presence of paraphernalia in the home because she had previously admitted possessing paraphernalia in the home, on that day. Accordingly, because the impeachment used was not the type of impeachment governed by Rule 609, the provisions governing the use of convictions pursuant to that rule were inapplicable. Instead, the evidence was adduced to show a contradiction, and thus the trial court properly admitted it at trial.
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