FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. 35CR-12-366.
HONORABLE ROBERT H. WYATT, JUDGE.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Rachel Kemp, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellant.
LINKER HART, Associate Justice. BRILL, C.J., and DANIELSON,
JOSEPHINE LINKER HART, Associate Justice
State of Arkansas, brought a criminal charge against
appellee, Billy Gene Coble, alleging that Coble had engaged
in sexual indecency with a child, in violation of Arkansas
Code Annotated section 5-14-110(a)(4)(C) (Repl. 2013). A jury
trial was held, and at the close of the State's case, the
circuit court directed a verdict in Coble's favor. The
State appeals, asking this court to declare error on a
question of law. Particularly, the State argues that the
circuit court erred in its determination of what is meant by
the phrase " another person" in the criminal
statute. We accept the appeal and affirm the circuit
3(b), (c), and (d) of the Arkansas Rule of Appellate
Procedure--Criminal, authorizes this court to hear an appeal
when the Attorney General, after inspecting the trial record,
is satisfied that error has been committed to the prejudice
of the State and that the correct and uniform administration
of the criminal law requires such review. As a threshold
matter, we must consider whether the State has properly
brought its appeal pursuant to this rule. This court decides
appeals brought by the State in criminal cases only when the
issue is narrow in scope, involves the interpretation of law,
has widespread ramifications, and involves the correct and
uniform administration of the criminal law. State v.
Thomas, 2014 Ark. 362, at 3, 439 S.W.3d 690, 692. We
dismiss appeals that only raise an issue of the application,
not interpretation, of a statutory provision. Id.,
439 S.W.3d at 692. The issue before this court is a narrow
one of statutory interpretation and does not turn on
particular facts. Our decision will have widespread
application and is required for the correct and uniform
administration of the criminal law. We hold that this is a
proper State appeal.
that this is solely a question of the interpretation of the
criminal statute, a recitation of the facts presented at
trial is unnecessary, and we need only resort to an
examination of the statutory language. In pertinent part,
Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-14-110(a)(4)(C) provides
that " [a] person commits sexual indecency with a child
if . . . [w]ith the purpose to arouse or gratify his or her
sexual desire or a sexual desire of another person, a person
who is eighteen (18) years of age or older causes or coerces
a minor to expose his or her sex organs to another
person, and the actor is . . . [t]he minor's
guardian." (Emphasis added.) We emphasize the phrase,
" another person," as it is this phrase that the
State asks this court to interpret.
directing a verdict in Coble's favor, the circuit court
concluded that, as used in the statute, the phrase, "
another person," means someone other than the defendant.
In essence, in interpreting section 5-14-110(a)(4)(C), the
circuit court concluded that a guardian commits the crime
only if he or she causes or coerces a minor to expose his or
her sex organs--not to the
actor (who is the guardian) or the victim--but instead to
appeal, the State asserts that the circuit court's
interpretation will lead to an absurd result, as the intent
of the statute is to protect minors from actors who are
guardians of the minors, and this court will not interpret a
statute to lead to an absurd result. The State argues that it
" flies in the face of logic to read the statute to mean
that a person in such a position could escape criminal
liability as long as he causes the child to expose himself or
herself solely to him (the actor) and not to a third
person." The State proposes that a "
common-sense" reading of the statute shows that the
phrase " causes or coerces a minor to expose his or her
sex organs to another person" means to any person other
than the victim, and that such a reading does not exclude the
actor as " another person."
appeal, we consider statutory interpretation de novo.
Thomas, 2014 Ark. 362, at 4, 439 S.W.3d 690, 692. In
determining the meaning of a statute, the first rule is to
construe it just as it reads, giving the words their ordinary
and usually accepted meaning in common language. First
Ark. Bail Bonds, Inc. v. State, 373 Ark. 463, 464-65,
284 S.W.3d 525, 527 (2008). We construe the statute so that
no word is left void, superfluous, or insignificant, and
meaning and effect are given to every word in the statute, if
possible. Id. at 465, 284 S.W.3d at 527. When the
language of a statute ...