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State v. Ferguson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

June 12, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
JENA L. FERGUSON

          APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 526-408, SECTION "J" Honorable Darryl A. Derbigny, Judge

          Leon A. Cannizzaro District Attorney Donna R. Andrieu Assistant District Attorney Irena Zajickova Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT

          Aaron Zagory ORLEANS PUBLIC DEFENDERS COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Judge Rosemary Ledet

          EDWIN A. LOMBARD JUDGE

         The State appeals the district court judgment granting the defendant's motion to quash. After review of the record in light of the applicable law and arguments of the parties, the judgment of the district court is reversed.

         Relevant Facts and Procedural History

         On September 22, 2015, the State filed a bill of information charging Ms. Ferguson with two counts of theft: Count I charged Ms. Ferguson with theft in an amount "less than fifteen hundred dollars" belonging to Philip Cooper with the intent to permanently deprive Mr. Cooper of said property;" and Count II charged Ms. Ferguson with theft in an "amount less than fifteen hundred dollars belonging to Total Community Action Credit Union (TCACU) with the intent to permanently deprive TCACU of said property. No bill of particulars was requested or filed.[1]

         At her arraignment on November 9, 2015, Ms. Ferguson pleaded not guilty. She filed the motion to quash the bill of information on August 14, 2018. On August 31, 2018, after a hearing, the district court found that based on the undisputed facts in the case and citing La. Code Crim. Proc. art. 532(A)(8), it lacked the jurisdiction to resolve the matter which was, in essence, a civil contract dispute.[2] Pursuant to the jurisprudence in New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Found., Inc. v. Kriskey, 2009-1433, p. 13 (La.App. 4 Cir. 5/26/10) 40 So.3d 394, 403, the district court found that Ms. Ferguson had no personal liability for the legal obligations of Knowledge Speaks, the company to which the Coopers paid the deposit.

         The State appeals this judgment.

         Standard of Review

         The decision by a district court to grant or deny a motion to quash is "solely a question of law" and, therefore, reviewed de novo. State v. Ancalade, 14-0739, p. 10 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1/14/15), 158 So.3d 891, 897 (citation omitted). When reviewing de novo, this court does not defer to any factual findings made by the district court." Id.

         Applicable Law

         The motion to quash is a procedure by which to raise pre-trial defenses that do not go to the merit of the charge. State v. Petitto, 10-0581, p. 4 (La. 3/15/11), 59 So.3d 1245, 1248. "[F]actual defenses going to the merits of the charge are not proper grounds to be considered when deciding a motion to ...


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