NM Supreme Court orders resentencing of Farmington man citing double jeopardy

The Daily Times staff
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON – The state Supreme Court vacated one of a Farmington man’s convictions in connection with a commercial break in at a local sign business on the grounds that multiple convictions violated his constitutional protections against double jeopardy.

Franklin Begaye, 51, received 16 years in prison in 2018 for the 2017 crime. The court ordered that he be resentenced because he received two convictions for what the court found to be the same crime.

His original sentence after State v. Begaye was decided was made stricter due to prior felony convictions, according to a news release from the state's Administrative Office of the Courts.

“We conclude that Defendant’s right to be free from double jeopardy was violated when he was convicted for both breaking and entering and non-residential burglary because the underlying conduct was unitary and, under the State’s theory, the burglary offense subsumed the breaking and entering offense,” Justice Julie J. Vargas wrote for the court in a unanimous opinion released on Jan. 12.

“For a jury to convict Begaye of burglary under the prosecution’s theory of the crime, Vargas wrote, ‘it necessarily had to have found that Defendant entered Ram Signs without authorization by breaking the front window, and that he entered with the intent to commit a theft on February 28, 2017. For breaking and entering, the jury had to have found that Defendant entered Ram Signs without permission by breaking the front window on February 28, 2017.’”

The ruling reversed an earlier state Court of Appeals decision that found no double jeopardy violation in Begaye’s convictions for breaking and entering and burglary.

The opinion also serves to clarify “the legal analysis that trial courts should conduct to determine whether a double jeopardy violation occurred in cases in which a single action resulted in multiple charges under different criminal statutes,” the news release said.

“The justices found in Begaye’s case that the statutes did not explicitly authorize multiple punishments for non-residential burglary and breaking and entering,” it stated. “The Court also concluded that prosecutors relied on the same evidence to support both charges.”