Maestas v. Colorado

The charge at issue arose after a witness spotted someone later identified as petitioner Bob Junior Maestas ringing the doorbell of an elderly neighbor’s home and then walking around the side of the house and attempting to open the gate. The witness called 911, and the police responded. Shortly thereafter, a different neighbor approached one of the officers who had arrived to assist, reporting he had heard someone try to open his front door. When they got to the neighbor’s detached garage, they noticed that the padlock on the door had been broken. The officer investigated and found Maestas hiding behind a couch in the garage. Officers later also discovered the sliding glass door in the back of the elderly neighbor’s house had been opened, despite the fact that she had left it closed the night before. The prosecution charged Maestas with attempted second degree burglary for opening the door of the elderly neighbor’s house and second degree burglary for Maestas’s entry into the garage with the intent to commit therein the crime of obstructing a peace officer. A jury ultimately convicted Maestas of all three charges against him, and he appealed, arguing, as pertinent here, that under the plain language of the burglary statute, the crime of obstructing a peace officer was not sufficient to establish the element of “intent to commit therein a crime against another person or property.” In a split unpublished opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed Maestas’s conviction on the burglary count, concluding that although Maestas had properly challenged the sufficiency of the evidence by twice moving for a judgment of acquittal in the trial court, he did not properly preserve the precise argument that he was making on appeal. The majority therefore concluded that the appropriate standard of review was for plain error and reviewed Maestas’s sufficiency claim pursuant to that standard. The minority concluded a plain error analysis of a sufficiency claim like the one at issue lead to unjust results. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded sufficiency of the evidence claims could be raised for the first time on appeal and were not subject to plain error review. Because the division reviewed Maestas’s sufficiency claim for plain error and affirmed the trial court’s ruling without considering the merits of Maestas’s assertion that insufficient evidence supported his conviction for second degree burglary, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the judgment concerning that count and remanded this case with instructions that the division perform a de novo review of Maestas’s sufficiency claim. View "Maestas v. Colorado" on Justia Law