State v. Pena

In State v. Pena, 869 P.2d 932, 937-38 (Utah 1994), the Court identified three factors to be considered when determining the appropriate deference to accord mixed questions of law and fact. These considerations are: (1) whether "the facts to which the legal rule is to be applied are so complex and varying that no rule adequately addressing the relevance of all these facts can be spelled out"; (2) whether "the situation to which the legal principle is to be applied is sufficiently new to the courts that appellate judges are unable to anticipate and articulate definitively what factors should be outcome determinative"; (3) whether "the trial judge has observed 'facts,' such as a witness's appearance and demeanor, relevant to the application of the law that cannot be adequately reflected in the record available to appellate courts." Pena, 869 P.2d at 938-39. The Court defined factual questions as "entailing the empirical, such as things, events, actions, or conditions happening, existing, or taking place, as well as the subjective, such as state of mind." Id. at 935. In contrast, the Court defined legal determinations as "rules or principles uniformly applied to persons of similar qualities and status in similar circumstances." Id. The Court also recognized a third category, "the application of law to fact," which asks "whether a given set of facts comes within the reach of a given rule of law." Id. at 936. The Court held that a dispatch call relaying information obtained from a 7-Eleven store clerk, who had reported a theft at the store and had described the suspect and his car, including its license plate number, did contain sufficient detailed information to justify police in making an initial stop of an individual matching the suspect's description. Id. at 934, 940.