People v. Preuss, Docket No. 83218

Decision Date28 September 1990
Docket NumberDocket No. 83218
Citation436 Mich. 714,461 N.W.2d 703
Parties, 7 A.L.R.5th 1050 PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. David Alan PREUSS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Richard Thompson, Pros. Atty., Oakland County, Robert C. Williams, Chief, Appellate Div. by Michael J. Modelski, Asst. Pros. Atty., Pontiac, for plaintiff-appellee.

John D. Lazar, Royal Oak, for defendant-appellant.



The issue in this case is whether, under the fourth-time habitual-offender statute, M.C.L. Sec. 769.12; M.S.A. Sec. 28.1084, two of a defendant's three prior convictions must be counted as only one prior conviction whenever the defendant commits both offenses before being convicted of either, or is sentenced for both offenses on the same day. We hold that the statute does not require that a fourth offender's three prior convictions, the sentences for those convictions, or the offenses upon which those convictions and sentences are based, occur in any particular sequence. The statute requires only that the fourth offense be preceded by three convictions of felony offenses, and that each of those three predicate felonies arise from separate criminal incidents.


The defendant in this case was charged with breaking and entering an occupied dwelling with the intent to commit larceny and with possessing cocaine. Defendant allegedly committed both of these offenses on November 24, 1986. Defendant was also charged with being a fourth offender. The habitual-offender information alleged three prior convictions for breaking and entering, one for which defendant was sentenced June 26, 1986, and two for which he was sentenced December 3, 1985. 1

Defendant pled guilty of the breaking and entering and fourth-time habitual-offender charges, admitting the three prior convictions alleged in the habitual-offender information. After an unsuccessful motion to withdraw his guilty plea, defendant appealed in the Court of Appeals. In defendant's supplemental brief he argued, relying upon People v. Stoudemire, 429 Mich. 262, 414 N.W.2d 693 (1987), that his habitual-offender conviction should be reduced from a fourth-offender conviction to a third-offender conviction because the two prior convictions for which he was sentenced on the same date should count as only one prior conviction. The Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant that defendant's two convictions resulted in only one opportunity to reform, and ordered resentencing. We granted the prosecutor's application for leave to appeal to determine whether "defendant was properly convicted as a fourth-time habitual offender." 432 Mich. 891, 437 N.W.2d 259 (1989).


In Stoudemire, p. 278, 414 N.W.2d 693, we held that under the fourth-offender statute, "multiple convictions arising out of a single incident may count as only a single prior conviction...." This holding, we stated, was consistent with the purpose of the statute, which we divined from the history of the statute. We reasoned that in order to be convicted as a fourth offender, a defendant must have been involved previously in three, separate criminal incidents, because

"[t]he Legislature intended that the habitual offender statute's fourth-felony provision, ... should apply only to a person who had had three opportunities to reform--who had been convicted and sentenced and then subsequently committed another felony for which he was also convicted and sentenced, and then subsequent to the second conviction committed yet another felony, for which he was again convicted and sentenced. Upon this person's conviction for yet a fourth felony, he would be subject to the habitual offender act's fourth-felony provision. He would be subject to mandatory life imprisonment because he had three times failed to reform, 'because of the apparent persistence in the commission of crime by the person convicted and his indifference to the laws....' " Id., p. 271, 414 N.W.2d 693 (quoting People v. Palm, 245 Mich. 396, 401, 223 N.W. 67 [1929]. See also Stoudemire, 429 Mich. pp. 266, 268, 414 N.W.2d 693.

Since Stoudemire, several panels of the Court of Appeals have applied its reasoning to varying factual scenarios to determine when a defendant's prior convictions may be counted separately. Some panels have interpreted Stoudemire 's opportunity-to-reform rationale in a limited manner, holding that a defendant rejects an opportunity to reform each time he commits another crime, even if he was not convicted or sentenced for one crime before committing the next, as long as the offenses arose from separate incidents. Others, like the panel below, have adopted the Court's statements in Stoudemire that in order for a conviction to count as a prior conviction under the statute, each conviction must be for an offense committed after conviction and sentence for a prior offense.


The prosecutor in this case asks that we reevaluate our statutory analysis in Stoudemire and reject the conclusions in that case concerning the Legislature's intent to limit the reach of the fourth-offender provision to defendants whose prior offenses are separated by intervening convictions and sentences. 2 We agree with the prosecutor that our statutory analysis of the habitual offender statute in Stoudemire was flawed. Although we need not disturb the precise holding of that case--that multiple convictions arising out of a single incident may count as only a single prior conviction under the statute--we conclude that a more accurate interpretation of the statute precludes many of the statements made there concerning the intent and purpose of the Legislature.


Since 1978, the fourth-offender statute has provided "If a person has been convicted of 3 or more felonies, attempts to commit felonies, or both, ... and that person commits a subsequent felony within this state, the person shall be punished upon conviction as follows...." M.C.L. Sec. 769.12; M.S.A. Sec. 28.1084.

Before that, the language was somewhat different:

"A person who after having been 3 times convicted ... of felonies or attempts to commit felonies, ... commits any felony within this state ... may be sentenced upon conviction of such fourth or subsequent offense to...." 1949 P.A. 56; 1929 P.A. 24; 1927 P.A. 175. 3

While the original language of the statute clearly requires that the fourth offense be committed after the three prior convictions, and the present language probably requires the same, neither contains any requirement that a fourth offender's three prior offenses, convictions, or sentences occur in any particular sequence.

The Legislature's specification that the fourth offense must follow three convictions, combined with its omission of any similar requirement for the second and third offenses, implies that no particular sequence for the first three offenses or convictions was intended. However, recognizing the well-established principle that a literal reading of a statute may be modified if that reading leads to a clear or manifest contradiction of the apparent purpose of the act, or if necessary to correct an absurd and unjust result, 4 we must turn to sources of legislative intent other than the language to determine whether declining to read into the statute a sequentiality requirement for predicate offenses would contradict the Legislature's purpose in enacting the statute.


As in Stoudemire, we find it appropriate to begin our analysis of legislative purpose with the original enactment of 1927. 1927 P.A. 175 was the culmination of the work of the Commission of Inquiry Into Criminal Procedure. 5 Sections 10, 11, 12, and 13 of chapter IX of the act mandated specific punishment and procedures for prior offenders. 6 In its report to the Legislature, the commission made special mention of these sections, suggesting that they were intended to remedy perceived deficiencies in the former statutes governing repeat offenders:

"We also call your attention to sections eleven, twelve, and thirteen of this chapter. These sections deserve your most earnest consideration. It will be observed that section thirteen provides that a person who has four times been convicted of a felony shall be imprisoned for life. It is interesting to note that section 15,613 of the Compiled Laws of 1915, one of the oldest criminal enactments of this State, has provided that a person who has been twice sentenced for the commission of a felony may be sentenced upon third conviction to life imprisonment. We do not find that this statute has been put into operation. We have, therefore, adopted section thirteen, which makes it mandatory to sentence to life imprisonment upon the fourth conviction." 7

This passage from the report does not contain any express statement concerning the commission's intent regarding whether a defendant's prior convictions, offenses, or sentences must occur in any particular sequence in order for him to be subject to the fourth-offender penalties. However, because the commission regarded the prior repeat-offender statute as ineffectual, an examination of its provisions is instructive.

"When any person shall be convicted of any offense, and shall be duly sentenced therefor to confinement in the state prison of this state, for one year or more, and it shall be alleged in the indictment on which such conviction is had, and admitted or proved on the trial, that the convict has before been sentenced to a like punishment by any court in this state, or in any other of the United States, for a period not less than one year, he shall be sentenced to be punished by imprisonment in the state prison not more than seven years, in addition to the punishment prescribed by law for the offense of which he shall then be convicted." 1915 CL 15,612.

"When any such convict shall have been twice before sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor, for a period of not less than one year at each time, by any court in...

To continue reading

Request your trial
29 cases
  • State v. Ledbetter
    • United States
    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • May 21, 1996
    ...223 Conn. at 744, 613 A.2d 804; Rose v. Freedom of Information Commission, supra, 221 Conn. at 227, 602 A.2d 1019. In People v. Preuss, 436 Mich. 714, 461 N.W.2d 703 (1990), the Supreme Court of Michigan was also not so constrained. In interpreting Michigan's fourth time habitual offender s......
  • Gargliano v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1993
    ...Conn. 273, 502 A.2d 911, 913 n. 2 & 917, n. 5 (1986); Miller v. State, 275 Ind. 454, 417 N.E.2d 339, 342 (1981); People v. Preuss, 436 Mich. 714, 461 N.W.2d 703, 705-07 (1990); Fitzgerald v. State, 722 S.W.2d 817, 821 (Tex.Ct.App.1987), aff'd, 782 S.W.2d 876 (Tex.Crim.App.1990); State v. Wi......
  • People v. Poole, Docket Nos. 169867
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • September 17, 1996
    ...cases was sufficiently different to render those cases inapplicable. Roseburgh, supra at 239, n. 1, 545 N.W.2d 14. In People v. Preuss, 436 Mich. 714, 461 N.W.2d 703 (1990), the Court held that a defendant could not be punished as a fourth-offense habitual offender unless the fourth offense......
  • People v. Gardner
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • July 23, 2008
    ...This Court has ruled that the statutes imply that each predicate felony must arise from separate criminal incidents. People v. Preuss, 436 Mich. 714, 461 N.W.2d 703 (1990); People v. Stoudemire, 429 Mich. 262, 414 N.W.2d 693 (1987) , mod. by Preuss, supra at 739, 461 N.W.2d 703 . Therefor......
  • 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