Lott v. Cox

Decision Date07 March 1966
Docket NumberNo. 8072,8072
Citation1966 NMSC 38,412 P.2d 249,76 N.M. 76
PartiesWalter R. LOTT, Petitioner, v. Harold A. COX, Warden of the New Mexico State Penitentiary, Respondent.
CourtNew Mexico Supreme Court

Edward T. Johnson, Santa Fe, for petitioner.

Myles E. Fint, Asst. Atty. Gen., Santa Fe, for respondent.

NOBLE, Justice.

Walter R. Lott was convicted May 17, 1961 in Cause No. 5047, Curry County, of breaking and entering, and was sentenced May 23, 1961 to serve not less than one nor more than three years. On May 19, 1961, he was charged in Cause No. 5062 with prior felonies, and a jury determined October 8, 1962 that he had been convicted of four prior felonies. At that time, the court, in Cause No. 5062, vacated the sentence theretofore imposed in Cause No. 5047 and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

In a prior habeas corpus proceeding, Lott v. Cox, 75 N.M. 102, 401 P.2d 93, we held that the Habitual Criminal Act creates no new offense but merely provides a proceeding by which to determine the penalty to be imposed on one previously convicted in this state of a felony, and declared the sentence imposed in Cause No. 5062 to be void. Lott was thereafter resentenced on April 28, 1965 in the breaking and entering case to the enhanced penalty of life imprisonment.

At the time of resentencing, the petitioner had completely served the sentence which was revoked. He now claims that the completely served sentence could not be vacated and another sentence imposed in its place. The precise question is one of first impression in this state but has been resolved by the courts of some other states. Our research has disclosed that with the exception of Florida, all of the courts, construing statutes in language almost identical to our Habitual Criminal Act, have said that those statutes permit the imposition of the enhanced punishment, even though the maximum sentence for the felony conviction which gave rise to it had been completely served.

The pertinent portion of § 41--16--4 N.M.S.A.1953, the applicable statute, reads:

'If at any time, either after sentance or conviction, it shall appear that a person convicted of a felony has previously been convicted of crimes, * * * it shall be the duty of the district attorney, * * * to file an information accusing the said person of such previous convictions. Whereupon the court, * * * shall cause the said person, whether confined in prison or otherwise, to be brought before it and shall inform him of the allegations * * * and of his right to be tried as to the truth thereof according to law, * * *. If the jury finds that he is the same person, * * * the court shall sentence him to the punishment above prescribed, * * * and shall vacate the previous sentence, deducting from the new sentence all time actually served on the sentence so vacated. * * *' (Emphasis ours.)

In construing the New York Baumes Law from which most habitual criminal laws were taken, the courts of that state held that the legislature not only had not limited the time within which the prescribed procedure shall be followed, but on the contrary, People v. Kaiser, 230 App.Div. 646, 246 N.Y.S. 309, said that the language of the act expressly directs that the habitual criminal procedure be followed upon discovery of prior convictions 'at any time, either after sentence or conviction' and that the prisoner shall be resentenced 'whether confined in prison or otherwise.' The New York court denied the contention that the sentence required by law had been completed when it said:

'But that sentence was insufficient in the light of the facts which were discovered after it was imposed, * * *.'

New York was followed in Ohio, Louisiana, Washington, and Oregon, whose statutes are patterned after the New York law. State v. Sudekatus, 72 Ohio App. 165, 51 N.E.2d 22; In re Sims, Ohio App., 104 N.E.2d 193; State v. George, 218 La. 18, 48 So.2d 265; Ex Parte Towne, 14 Wash.2d 633, 129 P.2d 230; Little v. Gladden, 202 Or. 16, 273 P.2d 443.

Attention is called to the fact that these courts placed special emphasis upon language of their statutes identical with the italicized language of our habitual criminal law.

It is significant that Oregon, in Little v. Gladden, supra, determined that it had fallen into error in holding in Ex Parte Broom, 198 Or. 551, 255 P.2d 1081, that a completely served sentence imposed in the felony conviction could not be vacated nor could any other sentence be imposed for that crime. In Little v. Gladden, supra, it was said that the error in Broom consisted of failure to give full effect to the legislative direction that an habitual criminal proceeding may be commenced by filing an information 'at any time, either after sentence or conviction,' and whether the person is 'confined in prison or otherwise.' Broom was expressly overruled.

Because the Oregon court followed with a construction of the foregoing language, identical with our own, we quote the following from Little v. Gladden, supra, as especially pertinent:

'The statutory language must be taken to mean what it says, and a limitation cannot properly be placed on the command and authorization of the legislature where the legislature has placed none. In a word, we think that the legislature neither said nor intended that an information might be filed at any time either after sentence or conviction, provided the person informed against had not fully served the previous sentence, and therefore that the court may not add this proviso to the statute. * * *'

The Louisiana court in State v. George, supra, had before it a set of facts more extreme than those in the instant case. There the defendant had not only completed service of the maximum sentence but had been discharged before the filing of the information charging prior convictions. That court, construing statutory language identical with our own, held valid a resentence to the enhanced punishment required by the habitual act, saying that the legislature had 'set no time limit for initiating the procedure for sentencing habitual criminals,' and that the language identical with that italicized in our statute requires an habitual criminal charge against a person whose prior criminal record brings him within the terms of the recidivist act 'at any time * * * whether confined in prison or otherwise * * *' even though he may have served the last sentence imposed...

To continue reading

Request your trial
18 cases
  • State v. Harris
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • 10 Enero 1984
    ...was no longer an authorized sentence because supplanted by the enhanced sentence mandated for an habitual offender. Lott v. Cox, 76 N.M. 76, 412 P.2d 249 (1966); State v. Gonzales, 84 N.M. 275, 502 P.2d 300 (Ct.App.1972). The trial court could correct the unauthorized sentence by imposing t......
  • State v. Rivera
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court
    • 2 Diciembre 2003
  • State v. Santillanes, 4528
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • 25 Marzo 1980
    ...1978 (repealed July 1, 1979); § 31-18-20, N.M.S.A. 1978 (Supp.1979); State v. Soliz, 79 N.M. 263, 442 P.2d 575 (1968); Lott v. Lox, 76 N.M. 76, 412 P.2d 249 (1965). Nonetheless, Rhodes held that notice and opportunity to be heard before an increased penalty could be imposed were required as......
  • State v. Gaddy
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • 1 Mayo 1990
    ...by the defendant in Acuna. We also recognize that, as the dissent points out, the result in this case is inconsistent with Lott v. Cox, 76 N.M. 76, 412 P.2d 249 (1966). Unlike the dissent, however, we do not believe we are bound by Lott. Although the supreme court did not explicitly overrul......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT