Lengele v. State

[CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

In Lengele v. State,[1] the court of appeals held that an incomplete and potentially misleading jury instruction does not constitute plain error when it is not obviously incorrect or prejudicial.[2] Lengele was convicted of criminal nonsupport after repeatedly failing to pay child support.[3] At trial, Lengele objected to language in the jury instruction stating voluntary termination of one’s employment did not lawfully excuse timely payment.[4] On appeal, Lengele argued that the lower court’s jury instruction improperly excluded the possibility that Lengele might have voluntarily terminated her employment reasonably.[5] The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, reasoning that the disputed language was not obviously incorrect because voluntary termination of employment can, by itself, establish the absence of a reasonable excuse for failure to pay child support.[6] The court further reasoned that the language was not prejudicial because the evidence, such as not finding her job worth it after her wages were garnished, did not illustrate any instances where Lengele’s voluntary termination was objectively reasonable.[7] Affirming the lower court’s decision, the court of appeals held that a jury instruction that is incomplete and potentially misleading does not constitute plain error when the language is not obviously incorrect or prejudicial.[8]


[1] 295 P.3d 931 (Alaska Ct. App. 2013).

[2] Id. at 938.

[3] Id. at 933­–34.

[4] Id. at 934.

[5] Id. 934­–35.

[6] Id. at 937.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 938.

Lengele v. State

[CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

In Lengele v. State,[1] the court of appeals held that an incomplete and potentially misleading jury instruction does not constitute plain error when it is not obviously incorrect or prejudicial.[2] Lengele was convicted of criminal nonsupport after repeatedly failing to pay child support.[3] At trial, Lengele objected to language in the jury instruction stating voluntary termination of one’s employment did not lawfully excuse timely payment.[4] On appeal, Lengele argued that the lower court’s jury instruction improperly excluded the possibility that Lengele might have voluntarily terminated her employment reasonably.[5] The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision, reasoning that the disputed language was not obviously incorrect because voluntary termination of employment can, by itself, establish the absence of a reasonable excuse for failure to pay child support.[6] The court further reasoned that the language was not prejudicial because the evidence, such as not finding her job worth it after her wages were garnished, did not illustrate any instances where Lengele’s voluntary termination was objectively reasonable.[7] Affirming the lower court’s decision, the court of appeals held that a jury instruction that is incomplete and potentially misleading does not constitute plain error when the language is not obviously incorrect or prejudicial.[8]


[1] 295 P.3d 931 (Alaska Ct. App. 2013).

[2] Id. at 938.

[3] Id. at 933­–34.

[4] Id. at 934.

[5] Id. 934­–35.

[6] Id. at 937.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 938.