Billingsley v. State

Decision Date14 December 2012
Docket NumberCR–10–0540.
PartiesCornelius Antoine BILLINGSLEY v. STATE of Alabama.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

115 So.3d 192

Cornelius Antoine BILLINGSLEY
v.
STATE of Alabama.

CR–10–0540.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

Dec. 14, 2012.


[115 So.3d 193]


Jason B. Dial, Montgomery, for appellant.

Luther Strange, atty. gen., and William D. Dill, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.


PER CURIAM.

The appellant, Cornelius Antoine Billingsley, appeals his guilty-plea conviction for failure to register as a sex offender, see§ 13A–11–200, Ala.Code 1975.1 The circuit court sentenced Billingsley to five years' imprisonment but suspended that sentence and placed him on two years' probation. Additionally, the circuit court ordered Billingsley to pay a $50 crime-victims-compensation assessment, an attorney fee, and court costs.

On January 28, 2010, the St. Clair County Grand Jury indicted Billingsley as follows:

“Cornelius Antoine Billingsley, whose name to the Grand Jury is otherwise unknown, having been convicted of the crime of Carnal Knowledge,2 in the [United States] Military Court of First Region Fort Belvoir, and having been released from legal custody did fail or refuse to first register as required, in

[115 So.3d 194]

violation of [§ ] 13A–11–200 of the Code of Alabama, 1975, as last amended, against the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama.”

(C. 28.) Thereafter, Billingsley filed what he styled as a “motion to dismiss indictment” and an “amended motion to dismiss indictment,” in which he argued that the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because, he said, “the legislature did not intend to include [Uniform Code of Military Justice] convictions within the control of § 13A–11–200[, Ala.Code 1975].” On December 16, 2010, the circuit court denied Billingsley's motions and Billingsley pleaded guilty, reserving for appeal the issues raised in his motions.


During the guilty-plea proceeding the State proffered the following factual basis for Billingsley's guilty plea:

“[Billingsley] is convicted of a criminal sex offense and lived in Jefferson County and moved to the Southern Division of St. Clair County without giving notice and listed a Trails End address in St. Clair County without giving notice to the sheriff. That's all.”

(R. 6.)


On appeal, Billingsley argues that the circuit court did not have “jurisdiction to convict [him] of failure to register as a sex offender under [§ ] 13A–11–200[, Ala.Code 1975,] when the offense [that] made the basis of the failure to register conviction is a conviction in a ... military court.” (Billingsley's brief, p. 6.)

The State, relying on this Court's affirmance by unpublished memorandum in Billingsly* v. State (No. CR–08–1971, Oct. 22, 2010), 92 So.3d 814 (Ala.Crim.App.2010) (table),3 contends that Billingsley's argument is not preserved for review because, it says, “[a]lthough Billingsley raised the issue in a pretrial motion and reserved the right to appeal its denial, the issue is nothing more than a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, which is not proper in a motion to dismiss an indictment.” (State's brief, p. 4.) In our previous unpublished memorandum, this Court relied on the holding in Doseck v. State, 8 So.3d 1024 (Ala.Crim.App.2008). This Court subsequently overruled Doseck, however, in Ankrom v. State, [Ms. CR–09–1148, Aug. 26, 2011] ––– So.3d –––– (Ala.Crim.App.2011), holding:

“[I]n Doseck v. State, 8 So.3d 1024 (Ala.Crim.App.2008), this Court declined to review the merits of a similar issue because the issue had been improperly raised in the trial court by way of a motion to dismiss. This Court held that Rule 13.5(c)(1), Ala. R.Crim. P., does not permit dismissal of an indictment based on the insufficiency of the evidence and that no other ‘Rule of Criminal Procedure ... provides a mechanism for a pretrial challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence.’ Doseck, 8 So.3d at 1025.

[115 So.3d 195]

“In the present case, Ankrom's attorney referenced the indictment when reserving the issue for review and styled the pleading as a ‘Motion to Dismiss Indictment.’ However, the motion was obviously mislabeled, because it did not challenge the validity of the indictment. Rather, Ankrom's motion and argument forthrightly raised the issue whether her conduct, as a matter of law, constituted a violation of § 26–15–3.2, Ala.Code 1975, the offense charged in the indictment. The trial court was clearly on notice of this legal issue, interpreted the language of the statute to encompass Ankrom's conduct, and accepted Ankrom's reservation of the issue for appellate review. The State did not object to the reservation of this issue.

“Procedurally, Doseck appears to be nearly identical to the present case and, if followed, would require this Court to hold that Ankrom's claim is not properly before this Court for review. However, upon reexamining Doseck, we now believe that this decision conflicts with established precedent from the Alabama Supreme Court, such as Ex parte Deramus, 882 So.2d 875[, 876] (Ala.2002). In Ex parte Deramus, the Alabama Supreme Court held:

“ ‘Indeed, the mere mislabeling of a motion is not fatal. King Mines Resort, Inc. v. Malachi Mining & Minerals, Inc., 518 So.2d 714, 718 (Ala.1987). This Court has stated that it is “committed to the proposition that it will treat a motion (or other pleading) and its assigned grounds according to its substance.” King Mines Resort, 518 So.2d at 718;see also Lockhart v. Phenix City Inv. Co., 488 So.2d 1353 (Ala.1986), and Sexton v. Prisock, 495 So.2d 581 (Ala.1986). Further, the Court has held that “[t]he substance of a motion and not its style determines what kind of motion it is.” Evans v. Waddell, 689 So.2d 23, 26 (Ala.1997).’

....

“...[W]e now hold that, in circumstances such as those presented in this case and in Doseck—where a pure question of law as to whether an accused's actions constitute a violation of the statute he or she is charged with violating is properly presented to the trial court, ruled on by the trial court, and properly reserved for appeal during the guilty-plea colloquy—the appellant should not be penalized for raising that question of law in an improperly styled pleading, such as in a motion to dismiss the indictment. To hold otherwise would result in legally meritless cases being sent to trial and would waste precious judicial resources. Additionally, it is important to note that the State and Ankrom presented this legal issue fully to the trial court. Further, all parties were clearly aware of the question presented to, and ruled upon, by the trial court. It would be procedural folly for our Court to now refuse to consider the merits of this issue. To the extent that this Court's opinion in Doseck held otherwise, it is hereby overruled. Moreover, Ankrom raised this specific issue orally during the guilty-plea proceeding and thereafter reserved it for review.”

Ankrom, ––– So.3d at –––– (footnote omitted).

The record here, as in Ankrom, establishes that Billingsley filed what he styled as a “motion to dismiss indictment” and an “amended motion to dismiss indictment,” which do not, as the State contends, challenge the sufficiency of the State's evidence to support his conviction; rather, they present a pure question of law as to whether Billingsley's actions constitute a violation of § 13A–11–200, Ala.Code 1975. Furthermore, Billingsley specifically reserved the right to appeal “the issues of

[115 So.3d 196]

jurisdiction and void for vagueness.” (C. 5.) Thus, based on this Court's holding in Ankrom, Billingsley has properly reserved and preserved this argument for review. Accordingly, we now address Billingsley's claim on appeal.

Billingsley, as stated above, contends that the circuit court was without “jurisdiction to convict [him] of failure to register as a sex offender under [§ ] 13A–11–200[, Ala.Code 1975.]” Specifically, Billingsley contends that a conviction in a United States military court does not “trigger[ ] any duty to register under [§ ] 13A–11–200, Ala.Code 1975.” (Billingsley's brief, pp. 3–4.) The State, on the other hand, contends that military courts are federal courts because, it says, military courts are “created by federal law under Article I of the United States Constitution” and “the Uniform Code of Military Justice—the governing code followed by the United States military courts in criminal proceedings—is federal law deriving directly from the United States Constitution.” (State's brief, pp. 7–8.) Thus, the issue before this Court is whether § 13A–11–200, Ala.Code 1975, requires a person convicted of a qualifying offense in a United States military court to register with the sheriff of the county where he or she maintains his or her legal residence.

In Soles v. State, 820 So.2d 163 (Ala.Crim.App.2001), this Court stated:

“ ‘The first rule of statutory construction is that the intent of the legislature should be given effect. Ex parte McCall, 596 So.2d 4 (Ala.1992); Volkswagen of America, Inc. v. Dillard, 579 So.2d 1301 (Ala.1991). However, when possible, the intent of the legislature should be gathered from the language of the statute itself. Dillard, supra. Thus, where the language of the statute is plain, the court must give effect to the clear meaning of that language. Ex parte United Service Stations, Inc., 628 So.2d 501 (Ala.1993); IMED Corp. v. Systems Eng'g Associates Corp., 602 So.2d 344 (Ala.1992).’

Beavers v. County of Walker, 645 So.2d 1365, 1376–77 (Ala.1994). See also Tuscaloosa County Comm'n v. Deputy Sheriffs' Ass'n of Tuscaloosa County, 589 So.2d 687, 689 (Ala.1991) (‘Words used in [a] statute must be given their natural, plain, ordinary, and commonly understood meaning, and where plain language is used a court is bound to interpret that language to mean exactly what it says. If the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, then there is no room for judicial construction and the clearly expressed intent of the legislature must be given effect.’ (citations omitted)).”

820 So.2d at 164–65. “Principles of statutory construction instruct this Court...

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3 cases
  • Ankrom v. State (Ex parte Ankrom)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 11 Enero 2013
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    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
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