February 8, 2019
Reversed and remanded
- Statutory interpretation of RSA 632-A:10, prohibiting qualifying sex offenders from knowingly undertaking employment or volunteer service involving the care, instruction or guidance of a minor
The defendant was previously convicted of sexual assault, and as such, RSA 632-A:10, I prohibits him from “knowingly undertak[ing] employment or volunteer service involving the care, instruction or guidance of minor children, including, but not limited to, services as a teacher, a coach, or worker of any type in child athletics, a daycare worker, a boy or girl scout master leader or worker, a summer camp counselor or worker of any type, a guidance counselor, or a school administrator of any type.” The defendant operated a landscaping business and hired a juvenile to work for him. Based on this circumstance, the defendant was tried for violating RSA 632-A:10, I.
At trial, the court instructed the jury that the definition of “undertak[ing] employment involving the care, instruction or guidance of minor children” included if the defendant “directly entered into an employment relationship with a minor child in which the defendant was responsible for the supervision or management of children.” The jury convicted the defendant, and the defendant appealed the trial court’s interpretation of RSA 632-A:10, I, among other things.
In rejecting the trial court’s interpretation of the statute, the New Hampshire Supreme Court applied the principle of ejusdem generis, explaining that the general words in a statute are construed to apply only to persons or things that are similar to the specific words enumerated in the statute. The pertinent statute enumerates prohibited employment as a teacher, coach, day care worker, scout master, camp counselor and school administrator. Undertaking employment as a landscaper, however, is not a service like those specified in the statute, which by their nature provide access to children. Therefore, the Court concluded that the statute does not preclude a person with a qualifying conviction from knowingly undertaking employment as a landscaper.
Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Elizabeth C. Woodcock, assistant attorney general, on the brief and orally), for the State. Thomas Barnard, senior assistant appellate defender (on the brief and orally), for the defendant.