People v. Cunningham

Citation852 N.W.2d 118,496 Mich. 145
Decision Date18 June 2014
Docket NumberCalendar No. 5.,Docket No. 147437.
PartiesPEOPLE v. CUNNINGHAM.
CourtSupreme Court of Michigan

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Bill Schuette, Attorney General, Aaron D. Lindstrom, Solicitor General, Matthew Schneider, Chief Legal Counsel, Frederick L. Anderson, Prosecuting Attorney, and Judy Hughes Astle, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

State Appellate Defender Office (by Anne M. Yantus), for defendant.

Christopher M. Smith and Miriam J. Aukerman for the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan.

MARKMAN, J.

At issue is whether MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) provides courts with the independent authority to impose costs upon criminal defendants. We hold that it does not. Instead, we hold that MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) provides courts with the authority to impose only those costs that the Legislature has separately authorized by statute. Therefore, the circuit court erred when it relied on MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) as independent authority to impose $1,000 in court costs,” and the Court of Appeals erred as well by affirming the imposition of such costs. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals, vacate the portion of the circuit court's order imposing $1,000 in court costs, and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

I. FACTS AND HISTORY

In March of 2011, defendant acquired the prescription drug Norco by presenting a forged prescription to a pharmacy. Defendant pleaded guilty in the Allegan County Circuit Court to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud in violation of MCL 333.7407(1)(c) and was sentenced to 12 to 48 months' imprisonment. In addition, defendant was ordered to pay $130 for the crime victim's rights assessment, $68 in minimum state costs, and $1,000 in unspecified court costs.” 1 Defendant filed a motion to correct what he viewed as an invalid sentence, arguing that the circuit court should reduce or vacate the amount of court costs imposed to reflect the amount of actual costs incurred by the circuit court in connection with defendant's case. The circuit court denied this motion and held that the court costs were permissible under the “general taxing authority of MCL 769.1k and MCL 769.34(6).”

In light of People v. Sanders, 296 Mich.App. 710, 825 N.W.2d 87 (2012), the Court of Appeals then remanded to the circuit court to “factually establish the reasonable costs figure for felony cases in Allegan County Circuit Court.” People v. Cunningham, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, issued October 2, 2012 (Docket No. 309277).2 At the ensuing hearing, the Circuit Court Administrator testified that the average cost per criminal case in the circuit court was $1,238.48.3 Accordingly, the circuit court found that a reasonable relationship existed between the court costs imposed and the actual court costs incurred in connection with defendant's conviction. Relying on Sanders, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's order. People v. Cunningham (After Remand), 301 Mich.App. 218, 836 N.W.2d 232 (2013). One judge dissented on the grounds that courts may not include the general costs of maintaining the judicial branch of government in calculating such court costs. Id. at 222–225, 836 N.W.2d 232 (Shapiro, J., dissenting). On November 20, 2013, this Court granted defendant's application for leave to appeal. People v. Cunningham, 495 Mich. 897, 839 N.W.2d 202 (2013).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Questions of statutory interpretation are questions of law that are reviewed de novo. Martin v. Beldean, 469 Mich. 541, 546, 677 N.W.2d 312 (2004).

III. ANALYSIS

“The right of the court to impose costs in a criminal case is statutory.” People v. Wallace, 245 Mich. 310, 313, 222 N.W. 698 (1929). Thus, courts may impose costs in criminal cases only where such costs are authorized by statute. Id.4 In a variety of circumstances, the Legislature has chosen to provide courts with the authority to impose costs. For instance, with regard to certain offenses, courts may require criminal defendants to pay the “costs of prosecution.” 5 With regard to other offenses, courts may require criminal defendants to “reimburse the state or a local unit of government for expenses incurred in relation to that incident including but not limited to expenses for an emergency response and expenses for prosecuting the person.” 6MCL 769.1f(1). Regardless of the offense committed, when a criminal defendant is placed on probation, courts may require the probationer to pay “expenses specifically incurred in prosecuting the defendant or providing legal assistance to the defendant and supervision of the probationer.” MCL 771.3(5). Additionally, when a criminal defendant receives a conditional sentence, courts may “order the person to pay a fine, with or without the costs of prosecution.” MCL 769.3(1).

In 1994, when the Legislature laid the foundation for the criminal sentencing guidelines, it amended the Code of Criminal Procedure to add MCL 769.34, which provides in pertinent part that when a criminal defendant is sentenced for an offense subject to the guidelines, [a]s part of the sentence, the court may order the defendant to pay any combination of a fine, costs, or applicable assessments,” and [t]he court shall order payment of restitution as provided by law.” MCL 769.34(6), as added by 1994 PA 445.

In 2005, the Legislature further amended the Code of Criminal Procedure to add the statute immediately at issue, MCL 769.1k, which provides:

(1) If a defendant enters a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or if the court determines after a hearing or trial that the defendant is guilty, both of the following apply at the time of the sentencing or at the time entry of judgment of guilt is deferred pursuant to statute or sentencing is delayed pursuant to statute:

(a) The court shall impose the minimum state costs as set forth in section 1j of this chapter.

(b) The court may impose any or all of the following:

( i ) Any fine.

( ii) Any cost in addition to the minimum state cost set forth in subdivision (a).

( iii ) The expenses of providing legal assistance to the defendant.

( iv ) Any assessment authorized by law.

( v ) Reimbursement under section 1f of this chapter.

(2) In addition to any fine, cost, or assessment imposed under subsection (1), the court may order the defendant to pay any additional costs incurred in compelling the defendant's appearance.

(3) Subsections (1) and (2) apply even if the defendant is placed on probation, probation is revoked, or the defendant is discharged from probation.

(4) The court may require the defendant to pay any fine, cost, or assessment ordered to be paid under this section by wage assignment.

(5) The court may provide for the amounts imposed under this section to be collected at any time.

(6) Except as otherwise provided by law, the court may apply payments received on behalf of a defendant that exceed the total of any fine, cost, fee, or other assessment imposed in the case to any fine, cost, fee, or assessment that the same defendant owes in any other case. [2005 PA 316, as amended by 2006 PA 655 (emphasis added.) ]

Thus, under MCL 769.1k(1), when a criminal defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere, or is otherwise found guilty, courts may impose certain financial obligations at the time of sentencing, or earlier if sentencing is delayed or entry of judgment of guilt is deferred. Courts may impose these obligations even if the defendant is placed on probation, probation is revoked, or the defendant is discharged from probation. MCL 769.1k(3). Moreover, the amounts imposed under MCL 769.1k may be collected at any time. MCL 769.1k(5).

In this case, the statute under which defendant was convicted, MCL 333.7407, does not provide courts with the authority to impose costs.7 Nonetheless, the prosecutorargues that the $1,000 in court costs imposed by the circuit court were proper under MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ). In the prosecutor's view, MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) provides courts with the independent authority to impose “any cost,” to wit, any kind of cost that a court might incur. In defendant's view, however, MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) does not provide courts with the independent authority to impose “any cost,” but merely allows courts to impose those costs that the Legislature has separately authorized by statute. Thus, the pertinent issue in this case concerns the extent to which MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) authorizes courts to impose costs.

In giving meaning to MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ), we examine the provision within the overall context of the statute “so as to produce, if possible, a harmonious and consistent enactment as a whole.” Grand Rapids v. Crocker, 219 Mich. 178, 182–183, 189 N.W. 221 (1922). This Court “must give effect to every word, phrase, and clause and avoid an interpretation that would render any part of the statute surplusage or nugatory.” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Old Republic Ins. Co., 466 Mich. 142, 146, 644 N.W.2d 715 (2002). We also consider the statute's ‘placement and purpose in the statutory scheme,’ Sun Valley Foods Co. v. Ward, 460 Mich. 230, 237, 596 N.W.2d 119 (1999) (citation omitted), and in interpreting related statutes, those in pari materia, we construe the statutes together “so as to give the fullest effect to each provision,” Glover v. Parole Bd., 460 Mich. 511, 527, 596 N.W.2d 598 (1999), citing Parks v. DAIIE, 426 Mich. 191, 199, 393 N.W.2d 833 (1986).

Although MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) allows courts to impose “any cost in addition to the minimum state cost,” this provision cannot be read in isolation, but instead must be read reasonably and in context. Sun Valley Foods Co. v. Ward, 460 Mich. 230, 236–237, 596 N.W.2d 119 (1999). When read “reasonably and in context,” it is evident to us that MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) does not provide courts with the independent authority to impose “any cost.” Rather, MCL 769.1k(1)(b)( ii ) provides courts with the authority to impose only those...

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