Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF BUCHANAN COUNTY The Honorable Keith
B. Marquart, Judge
Before: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Presiding Judge, Lisa White
Hardwick and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judges
White Hardwick, Judge
State appeals the dismissal of a misdemeanor charge against
Helen Fanning for violation of the compulsory school
attendance law. The State argues that the circuit court erred
in finding that Section 167.031.1, RSMo 2016,  is ambiguous as
to whether a parent's failure to cause a child between
the ages of seven and sixteen to regularly attend school
constitutes a misdemeanor under Section 167.061. Because we
find that the plain language of Sections 167.031.1 and
167.061 unambiguously criminalizes such conduct, we reverse
the circuit court's dismissal and remand the case.
and Procedural History
2017, the State charged Fanning with violating the compulsory
school attendance law, Sections 167.031 and 167.061, by
failing to cause her son to attend a required academic
program on a regular basis. The State alleged in its probable
cause statement that Fanning's son, who was thirteen
years old at the time, was habitually absent or tardy from
his middle school and had an attendance rate of 82%.
filed a motion to dismiss for failure to charge an offense.
In her motion, she alleged that the plain language of
Sections 167.031 and 167.061 criminalizes only a parent's
failure to cause a child between the ages of five and seven
to attend school regularly and does not criminalize a
parent's failure to cause a child who is between the ages
seven and the district's compulsory attendance age, which
is sixteen, to attend school regularly.
court held a hearing on Fanning's motion. Fanning
reiterated her argument that the plain language of Sections
167.031 and 167.061 criminalizes only nonattendance by
children between the ages of five and seven. Alternatively,
she argued that the statutes are ambiguous and, pursuant to
the rule of lenity, should be construed in her favor.
Following the hearing, the court agreed with Fanning and
found that the statutes are ambiguous and should be construed
in her favor. Therefore, the court dismissed the information
for failure to charge an offense. The State appeals.
reviewing the sufficiency of an information, we consider
whether the information:
(1) properly advise[d] the defendant of the nature and cause
of the accusation against him; (2) consist[ed] of a plain,
concise and definite written statement of the essential facts
constituting the offense charged; (3) state[d] facts which
constitute the offense charged with reasonable certainty; and
(4) ma[d]e the averments so clear and distinct that there
could be no difficulty in determining what evidence would be
admissible under them.
State v. Fernow, 328 S.W.3d 429, 430 (Mo. App. 2010)
(citation omitted). In her motion to dismiss, Fanning did not
contest the language per se of the misdemeanor information.
Instead, she argued that that statutes cited in the
information were not intended to define a criminal offense.
Hence, the issue before us is one of statutory
interpretation. Statutory interpretation is an issue of law,
which we review de novo. State v. Jacobson, 526
S.W.3d 228, 232 (Mo. App. 2017).
sole point on appeal, the State contends the circuit court
erred in dismissing the information on the basis that the
State failed to charge an offense. The State argues that it
alleged facts constituting a violation of a provision of
Section 167.031, and the ...