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State v. Kardonsky

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

June 14, 2016

THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
v.
ARTHUR KARDONSKY

          Argued: April 5, 2016

         6th Circuit Court–Concord District Division

          Joseph A. Foster, attorney general (Elizabeth C. Woodcock, assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State.

          Nixon Peabody LLP, of Manchester (Anthony J. Galdieri on the brief and orally), for the defendant.

          BASSETT, J.

         The defendant, Arthur Kardonsky, appeals the finding of the Circuit Court (Boyle, J.) that he was guilty of the violation-level offense of driving after suspension of his driver's license. See RSA 263:64 (2014). On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by ruling that this violation-level offense does not require the mens rea of "knowingly." Because we agree, we reverse.

         The relevant facts follow. The defendant was originally charged with both a misdemeanor and a violation-level offense for driving his motor vehicle after his privilege to do so had been suspended. The misdemeanor offense alleged that the defendant drove after his motor vehicle registration had been suspended; the violation-level offense alleged that he drove after his driver's license had been suspended. At trial, defense counsel urged the trial court to "enter a finding of not guilty" as to both the misdemeanor and violation-level offenses because, when the defendant was arrested for driving with a suspended license and registration, he was unaware that they had been suspended, and because "he had a license that on its face appeared valid and the same for the registration." For its part, the State argued that the defendant testified that he "lives at the address to which the notice" of license suspension "was sent, " and that "his testimony was conflicting as to what he does and does not recall."

The trial court ruled as follows at the close of evidence:
Sir, you're charged with operating on a suspended registration, that is a Class B misdemeanor. The State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you drove or permitted to be driven a certain motor vehicle in the State of New Hampshire after knowing that your registration had been suspended by the director of motor vehicles.
This is a misdemeanor level offense and it carries with it the mens rea of knowingly. I've heard testimony here today that you don't recall whether or not you received a notice from the police officer at the time of your accident that your registration would be suspended and your license would be suspended if you failed to comply with the insurance provisions and in essence guarantee that you would make good on any damages from the accident that you were at fault.
You've testified that you've had problems getting the mail where you were living at the time and you don't recall ever receiving a notice from DMV that you had, in fact, had your license suspended for failure to comply with the insurance requirements.
Since there's a mens rea of knowingly on this offense, I'm going to enter a finding of not guilty.
You also have a violation level offense of operating after suspension. That is a violation level offense[;] it does not require a mens rea of knowingly. What the State must prove is that your license was suspended and that you were operating a motor vehicle while your license was suspended.
I'm going to enter a finding of guilty to that one.

         The trial court imposed a $250 fine and a $60 penalty assessment. See RSA 263:64, VII. This appeal followed. The trial court subsequently granted the defendant's ...


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