People v. Valencia

Decision Date14 November 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94SC486,94SC486
Citation906 P.2d 115
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Petitioner, v. Adam G. VALENCIA, Respondent.
CourtColorado Supreme Court

Gale A. Norton, Attorney General, Stephen K. ErkenBrack, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Timothy M. Tymkovich, Solicitor General, John Daniel Dailey, Deputy Attorney General, Robert Mark Russel, First Assistant Attorney General, Catherine P. Adkisson, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Enforcement Section, Denver, for Petitioner.

Thomas J. Hammond, Denver, Jonathan S. Willett, Denver, for Respondent.

Justice SCOTT delivered the Opinion of the Court.

The People asked that we review the judgment of the court of appeals in People v. Valencia, 888 P.2d 319 (Colo.App.1994). We granted certiorari to determine whether a trial court can use a presentence report that fails to contain information required by law to sentence a defendant. 1 In Valencia, the court of appeals vacated the sentence and remanded to the trial court "for the compilation of a presentence report in conformance with § 16-11-102(1)(a) and, subsequently, for the resentencing of defendant." Id. at 321. We conclude that section 16-11-102 permits the trial court to waive portions of the presentence report; however, the trial court must provide a justification for its waiver prior to imposing sentence. Therefore, we affirm.

I

Because Adam G. Valencia participated in the armed robbery of a taxi cab driver, 2 he was charged with attempted aggravated robbery, 3 attempted first-degree murder, 4 and three counts of first-degree assault. 5 In accordance with a plea agreement, on May 27, 1993, the defendant entered a plea of guilty to one count of first-degree criminal assault; consequently, the People dismissed the remaining charges. The trial court accepted Valencia's plea and set the matter for sentencing.

On July 9, 1993, Valencia appeared with counsel for sentencing. At that hearing, Valencia's attorney informed the court that Valencia was 18 years old and that he had no prior criminal record. During the sentencing proceedings, Valencia's attorney also informed the court that the presentence report did not contain family background and related information enumerated in section 16-11-102(1)(a), 8A C.R.S. (1995 Supp.). 6 The presentence report was incomplete, at least in part, because the defendant declined to provide certain information to the probation department. 7 The presentence report did not include family background, educational history, and employment record information. Defense counsel requested a continuance of sentencing in order to allow the probation officer to complete the presentence report. The trial court denied Valencia's request, stating that it did not need the missing information in order to impose a sentence. Nonetheless and without a complete presentence report, the trial court imposed a twenty-year sentence.

The defendant appealed his sentence to the court of appeals. He argued that the trial court's denial of his request for a continuance and its reliance upon an incomplete presentence report constituted error and required that his sentence be vacated. The court of appeals reversed and vacated the sentence.

II
A

Section 16-11-102(1)(a), 8A C.R.S. (1995 Supp.), requires the preparation of a presentence report prior to the imposition of sentence. People v. Wright, 672 P.2d 518, 521 (Colo.1983). Section 16-11-102(1)(a) provides in relevant part:

Following ... a plea of guilty ... the probation officer shall make an investigation and written report to the court before the imposition of sentence. Each presentence report shall include a substance abuse assessment or evaluation made pursuant to article 11.5 of this title and, unless waived by the court, shall include, but not be limited to, information as to the defendant's family background, educational history, employment record, and past criminal record; an evaluation of the alternative dispositions available for the defendant; the information required by the court pursuant to section 16-11-204.5; a victim impact statement; and such other information as the court may require.

By its terms, section 16-11-102(1)(a) requires the preparation of a presentence report "before imposition of sentence." It also sets forth specific information that must be included in the report, i.e., family background, educational history, employment record, and other information, "unless waived by the court." It is the language of section 16-11-102(1)(a) that informs our review here.

When interpreting statutes we must give full effect to the intent of the legislature. Charnes v. Boom, 766 P.2d 665, 667 (Colo.1988). To determine legislative intent, we look first to the words used. People v. Warner, 801 P.2d 1187, 1190 (Colo.1990). The words and phrases used must be read in context and accorded their plain and ordinary meaning. § 2-4-101, 1B C.R.S. (1980); Bertrand v. Board of County Comm'rs, 872 P.2d 223, 228 (Colo.1994); Scoggins v. Unigard Ins. Co., 869 P.2d 202, 205 (Colo.1994).

B

The information provided in a presentence report is of great importance to the trial judge's ultimate sentencing decision. Wright, 672 P.2d at 521. This fact is ensconced in section 16-11-102(1)(a), which requires that the "probation officer shall make an investigation and written report to the court before the imposition of sentence." (Emphasis added.)

The plain language of section 16-11-102(1)(a) makes clear that the General Assembly did not consider the form of a presentence report an absolute requirement. Instead, the General Assembly granted the trial court discretion to waive certain requirements of the presentence report. Section 16-11-102(1)(a) expressly provides that "[e]ach presentence report ... unless waived by the court, shall include ... information as to the defendant's family background, educational history, employment record, and past criminal record...." The statute permits a court to waive the enumerated information otherwise required in the presentence report. The statute, however, does not provide guidance as to the exercise of that discretionary authority.

Our statutes provide and we have previously held that a defendant has the right to appellate review of his sentence "and the manner in which the sentence was imposed, including the sufficiency and accuracy of the information on which it was based." § 18-1-409(1), 8B C.R.S. (1995 Supp.) (emphasis added); see also People v. Horne, 619 P.2d 53, 59 (Colo.1980). An appellate court cannot determine whether the sentence imposed upon a defendant is proper and within the trial court's discretion without specific findings. Horne, 619 P.2d at 60.

The plain language of section 16-11-102(1)(a) grants the trial court discretion to impose sentence without certain information otherwise required in the presentence report. However, the exercise of that discretion is not absolute and is subject to review by an appellate court for abuse of discretion. In order to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion when it waived the inclusion of information otherwise required in a presentence report, a reviewing court must have a record that indicates the trial court's justification or rationale.

The instant case reflects an unclear exercise of discretion. Although the trial court decided to impose sentence using an incomplete presentence report, it did not indicate its basis for doing so. If the trial court imposed sentence because the information regarding the defendant's education, employment history, and family background was available from a source other than the presentence report, then the imposition of sentence would be sustainable. Likewise, if the defendant knowingly refused to cooperate with the probation officer's investigation and preparation of a complete presentence report, a trial court could not be faulted for proceeding with an incomplete report. However, the record here does not provide an explanation for the trial court's willingness to impose sentence without a presentence report disclosing family background, educational history, and employment record. 8 Without its justification for proceeding, we cannot determine whether the trial court acted in accordance with the discretion granted by section 16-11-102(1)(a).

When a trial court exercises its authority to waive the requirements of section 16-11-102(1)(a), it should set forth a sufficient basis or justification for its decision on the record, thereby, permitting adequate review on appeal. While a sentencing judge has wide discretion, that discretion is not unlimited and "the record must establish a clear justification for the trial judge's action." Horne, 619 P.2d at 59. Because the trial court did not set forth its basis for waiving the presentence report, it is not possible to conduct a review of its action and determine whether the trial court abused its discretion. The trial court failed to make the requisite findings that would permit a review of its ruling. We therefore conclude that its waiver of certain information otherwise required in the presentence report is ineffective.

III

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the court of appeals vacating the sentence of the trial court. We return this case to the court of appeals with directions that it remand the case to the trial court with instructions to conduct further sentencing proceedings consistent with the views expressed in this opinion.

VOLLACK, C.J., dissents, and ERICKSON and KOURLIS, JJ., join in the dissent.

ERICKSON, J., dissents.

Chief Justice VOLLACK dissenting:

The majority affirms the court of appeals' judgment vacating the sentence of the trial court. The majority holds that a trial court must set forth its basis for waiving certain information in a presentence report in order for such waiver to be effective pursuant to section 16-11-102(1)(a), 8A C.R.S. (1995 Supp.). I dissent because section 16-11-102(1)(a) grants trial courts the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • Nieto v. State
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • October 2, 1997
    ...look first to the words and phrases used, which must be read in context and accorded their plain and ordinary meaning. See People v. Valencia, 906 P.2d 115 (Colo.1995); American Respiratory Care Services v. Manager of Revenue, 835 P.2d 623 (Colo.App.1992). When that meaning is unambiguous a......
  • Raitz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 97SC446
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court
    • June 8, 1998
    ... ... the majority contends that once the Dahlins permitted Kristin's use of the vehicle, they impliedly authorized an indeterminate number of other people to use it as well so long as their use did not involve theft or conversion. As a result, the majority reverses the court of appeals, concluding that ... ...
  • People v. Meidinger, 98CA0923.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • August 19, 1999
    ...a statute must be interpreted in accordance with the common and ordinary meanings placed upon the words used by it. See People v. Valencia, 906 P.2d 115 (Colo.1995). Indeed, the General Assembly itself has commanded that statutory "[w]ords and phrases shall be read in context and construed ......
  • Raitz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals
    • April 3, 1997
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • APPENDIX B
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado Automobile Accident Litigation & Insurance Handbook (CBA) Appendix B
    • Invalid date
    ..."§ 10-4-707(1)(c) mandates coverage under the No-Fault Act only for a passenger who is occupying a car with the consent of an insured." 906 P.2d at 115. Under C.R.S. § 10-4-703(6), the term "insured" includes individuals using a vehicle with the permission of a named insured. Therefore, to ......
  • Chapter 7 - § 7.3 • ALCOHOL EVALUATIONS AND TREATMENT
    • United States
    • Colorado Bar Association Colorado DUI Benchbook (CBA) Chapter 7 Sentencing
    • Invalid date
    ...in the report. The importance of a thorough pre-sentence investigation report in felony cases is discussed in People v. Valencia, 906 P.2d 115 (Colo. 1995). The court must order an alcohol evaluation pursuant to this statute even when the defendant has undergone a private evaluation, and ev......

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