June 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Juvenile Court’s Combination of Sentencing Options Produced Illegal Sentence

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of J.S.R. on Thursday, July 31, 2014.

Illegal Sentence—Juvenile.

J.S.R. was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent in two previous cases and had two new delinquency cases pending against him. He entered into a plea agreement wherein he pleaded guilty to one count of felony menacing and one count of possession of a handgun by a juvenile in exchange for dismissal of the remaining two counts and the other pending case. Sentencing was left to the court’s discretion.

The court accepted the plea, adjudicated J.S.R. (then 17 years old) a juvenile delinquent as a mandatory sentence offender, and sentenced him to the Department of Youth Corrections (DYC) for a determinate one-year mandatory minimum term of commitment and a mandatory parole period. The court ordered one year of probation immediately following his release from the DYC and advised him that, because he would be 18 upon his release, he would be subject to a county jail sentence if he did not comply with probation.

J.S.R. completed his term of commitment and began serving his probationary term in February 2013. In June and July 2013, the probation department filed petitions to modify or revoke J.S.R.’s probation, which resulted in his arrest. J.S.R then filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, alleging the probationary term was illegal. The district court denied the motion.

The Court of Appeals firstinterpreted a court’s authority to impose a combination of sentencing options under CRS § 19-2-907. The Court concluded that CRS §§ 19-2-907 and -908(1)(a) can be harmonized and applied together; however, here, the district court erred in the combination that it chose, thereby imposing an illegal sentence.

The Court noted that, in general, probation is an alternative sentence to commitment. A prison sentence is generally punitive, and probation is intended to be rehabilitative. CRS §§ 19-2-907 and -925(1)(b) allow a combined sentence of commitment and probation, but only if the term of commitment is limited to no more than forty-five days. Because J.S.R.’s sentence was a combined sentence of commitment and probation, and the period of commitment exceeded the forty-five day maximum, the sentencing court exceeded its statutory sentencing authority and that the sentence was illegal. The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded with directions to resentence J.S.R. to a determinate one-year mandatory minimum commitment to the DYC, nunc pro tunc to the original date of sentencing, and to correct the mittimus accordingly.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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