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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

July 31, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
COLLEEN BROWN, ET AL

          APPEAL FROM CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT ORLEANS PARISH NO. 528-098, SECTION "J" Honorable Darryl A. Derbigny, Judge.

          Leon Cannizzaro, District Attorney Donna Andrieu, Assistant District Attorney Scott G. Vincent, Assistant District Attorney DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE ORLEANS PARISH COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT/THE STATE OF LOUISIANA .

          Matthew S. Vogel ORLEANS PUBLIC DEFENDERS Cesar R. Burgos Robert J. Daigre Gabriel O. Mondino George M. McGregor BURGOS & ASSOCIATES, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR APPELLEES/DEFENDANTS.

          Court composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Rosemary Ledet, Judge Tiffany G. Chase

          Rosemary Ledet Judge.

         This is a criminal appeal. The State of Louisiana seeks review of the district court's judgment granting the defendants' motion to quash. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 5, 2016, the State filed a bill of information jointly charging Colleen Brown, Joseph Livaccari, Tiffany Brown, and Chester Brown with one count of "commit[ing] insurance fraud by presenting a written or oral statement and/or conspiracy, knowing that such statement contained any false, incomplete, or fraudulent information concerning any fact or thing material to such claim," a violation of La. R.S. 22:1921, et seq. (the "Insurance Fraud Statute").[1] After arraignment, each of the defendants filed a motion to quash the bill of information.[2] Ultimately, the district court granted the motion.[3] This appeal followed.

         DISCUSSION

         In its sole assignment of error, the State contends that the district court erred in granting the motion to quash. "A motion to quash is a mechanism whereby pre-trial pleas are urged, i.e., pleas which do not go to the merits of the charge." State v. Marcelin, 13-0893, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/18/13), 131 So.3d 427, 430 (quotation marks omitted). "All pleas or defenses raised before trial, other than mental incapacity to proceed, or pleas of 'not guilty' and of 'not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity,' shall be urged by a motion to quash." La. C.Cr.P. art. 531. The available grounds for a motion to quash are listed in La. C.Cr.P. art. 532 and 534. These lists, however, "are merely illustrative"; thus, "motions not based on the grounds therein should not be automatically denied." Marcelin, 13-0893, p. 4 (La.App. 4 Cir. 12/18/13), 131 So.3d at 430.

         Although the defendants' motion to quash recited three grounds, [4] the motion, in substance, asserted only two grounds: (1) pursuant to La. C.Cr.P. art. 532(2), [5] that the bill of information is deficient; and (2) pursuant to La. C.Cr.P. art. 532(8), [6] that the district court lacks jurisdiction over this case. We address each substantive ground separately.

         Deficiency

         Although the defendants cited La. C.Cr.P. art. 532(2), the motion to quash fails to identify any cognizable formal deficiency in the bill of information.[7] Nonetheless, the motion to quash asserts a substantive deficiency-that the bill of information fails to allege that any of the defendants ever presented an insurance claim to an insurer. This argument sounds not in La. C.Cr.P. art. 532(2) but in La. C.Cr.P. art. 485-also cited in the motion to quash-which provides, in relevant part, as follows:

If it appears from the bill of particulars furnished under Article 484, together with any particulars appearing in the indictment, that the offense charged in the indictment was not committed, or that the defendant did not commit it, or that there is a ground for quashing the indictment, the court may on its own motion, and on motion of the defendant shall, order that the indictment be quashed unless the defect is cured.

See State v. Legendre, 362 So.2d 570, 571 (La. 1978) (analyzing a substantive "deficiency" in the indictment under La. ...


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