Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PHELPS COUNTY. Honorable Kenneth G.
Appellant: Samuel Buffaloe.
Respondent: Chris Koster & Richard A. Starnes.
E. SCOTT, J.
Ross appeals two felony convictions for stealing firearms. We
address here only a plain error double jeopardy claim that
involves statutory interpretation.
borrowed two heirloom rifles from a friend, sold them to a
gun dealer, and pocketed $200. He was charged with and
convicted of two counts of felony stealing, one for each
rifle sold, and received two concurrent
charges that the trial court plainly erred in accepting two
firearm-theft verdicts and sentencing Ross on two counts
instead of just one. To quote Ross, this was double jeopardy
since he " stole these firearms at the same time,
[which] only constitutes a single offense because section
570.030.3 lists the unit of prosecution as 'any
firearms.'" Alternately, Ross claims that " any
firearms" is ambiguous as to the unit of prosecution, so
the rule of lenity requires courts to adopt the statutory
construction that favors Ross.
sentences from Ross's briefs capture his argument:
o " The question presented in this appeal is whether the
alleged simultaneous appropriation of two firearms is one or
two violations of this statute in light of the 'any
firearms' language used in the statute."
o " Had the general assembly intended to punish a person
separately for each firearm taken at the same time, it could
have expressed this intention by using the term
'firearm' instead of 'firearms.'"
o " Because the phrase 'any firearms' is at
least ambiguous to the allowable unit of prosecution, and
because that ambiguity must be resolved in Mr. Ross's
favor, this Court must reverse one of Mr. Ross's stealing