People v. Williams

Decision Date14 June 2006
Docket NumberDocket No. 126956.
Citation475 Mich. 245,716 N.W.2d 208
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Cleveland WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Michael A. Cox, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, Kym L. Worthy, Prosecuting Attorney, Timothy A. Baughman, Chief of Research, Training, and Appeals, and Jeffrey Caminsky, Principal Attorney, Appeals, Detroit, for the people.

State Appellate Defender (by Leonard Zielinski and Jacqueline J. McCann), Lansing, for the defendant.


The 180-day rule, codified in MCL 780.131, provides that a prison inmate who has a pending criminal charge must be tried within 180 days after the Department of Corrections delivers to the prosecutor notice of the inmate's imprisonment and requests disposition of the pending charge. In People v. Smith, 438 Mich. 715, 717-718, 475 N.W.2d 333 (Levin, J.), 719 (Boyle, J.); 438 Mich. 715, 475 N.W.2d 333 (1991), this Court held that the 180-day rule does not apply when the pending charge provides for mandatory consecutive sentencing. In the instant case, the trial court initially dismissed the charges against defendant on the basis of a violation of the 180-day rule, but the Court of Appeals vacated the order of dismissal and remanded so the trial court could address the application of the rule in Smith, supra. On remand, the trial court, relying on the rule in Smith, supra, found no violation of the 180-day rule. The Court of Appeals thereafter dismissed the appeal and remanded for trial.

We overrule Smith, supra, and its progeny to the extent that they are inconsistent with the plain language of the 180-day-rule statute, which contains no exception for charges subject to consecutive sentencing. This decision is to be given limited retroactive effect, applying to those cases pending on appeal in which this issue has been raised and preserved. See People v. Cornell, 466 Mich. 335, 367, 646 N.W.2d 127 (2002). However, we affirm the lower courts' decision that the 180-day-rule statute was not violated because defendant was tried within 180 days of the date that the prosecutor received actual notice that defendant was in prison awaiting disposition of his pending armed robbery charge.


In 1998, after defendant's conviction of larceny from the person, MCL 750.357, he was sentenced to a one- to fifteen-year term of imprisonment. On May 7, 2000, while on parole for this conviction, defendant visited his son at the home of his son's mother, Adrian Harper. During this visit, defendant allegedly threatened Harper with a knife and stole money from her purse. He then stole Harper's car keys and drove away in her car.

On May 23, 2000, defendant was arrested and returned to the custody of the Michigan Department of Corrections. On the Wayne County Prosecutor's recommendation, the magistrate signed an arrest warrant and complaint for armed robbery, MCL 750.529, on June 2, 2000. On June 18, 2001, the Detroit Police Department took defendant into their custody for arraignment on the warrant. After a June 28, 2001, preliminary examination, defendant was bound over for trial on the armed robbery charge. On July 12, 2001, the Department of Corrections sent a written notice of defendant's incarceration to the prosecutor, requesting disposition of the pending warrant. The prosecutor's office received this notice on July 16, 2001. On July 19, 2001, an information charged defendant with armed robbery.

When the parties appeared for trial on January 9, 2002, defendant first moved to dismiss the charge, asserting violations of the 180-day rule and his right to a speedy trial. The trial court granted defendant's motion to dismiss. On the prosecution's appeal, the Court of Appeals peremptorily vacated the trial court's order of dismissal and remanded the matter to the trial court to address the application of People v. Chavies, 234 Mich.App. 274, 280-281, 593 N.W.2d 655 (1999). People v. Williams, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered June 9, 2003 (Docket No. 239662). Chavies relied on Smith in holding that the 180-day rule does not apply to persons who commit a crime while on parole because that person is subject to mandatory consecutive sentences. The Court of Appeals also ordered the trial court to make findings and discuss the application of the speedy trial factors articulated in Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 33 L.Ed.2d 101 (1972).

On remand, the trial court followed Chavies, supra, concluding that defendant was subject to mandatory consecutive sentencing for the pending armed robbery charge. Regarding the speedy trial issue, the court ruled that the charge against defendant should not have been dismissed because defendant had not insisted on a speedy trial and was unable to show prejudice. Upon receiving the trial court's findings, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal and remanded the case to the circuit court for trial. Unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered July 9, 2004 (Docket No. 239662). We ordered the clerk to schedule oral argument on whether to grant the defendant's application for leave to appeal or take other peremptory action. 472 Mich. 872, 693 N.W.2d 815 (2005).


This case involves the interpretation of MCL 780.131. We review issues of statutory interpretation de novo. People v. Stewart, 472 Mich. 624, 631, 698 N.W.2d 340 (2005). Our primary purpose in construing statutes is "to discern and give effect to the Legislature's intent." People v. Morey, 461 Mich. 325, 330, 603 N.W.2d 250 (1999). "We begin by examining the plain language of the statute; where that language is unambiguous, we presume that the Legislature intended the meaning clearly expressed—no further judicial construction is required or permitted, and the statute must be enforced as written." Id.

Whether defendant was denied his right to a speedy trial is an issue of constitutional law, which we also review de novo. People v. Hickman, 470 Mich. 602, 605, 684 N.W.2d 267 (2004). We generally review a trial court's factual findings for clear error. MCR 2.613(C); People v. Knight, 473 Mich. 324, 338, 701 N.W2d 715 (2005).

A. The Statutory 180-Day Rule

As a preliminary matter, before determining whether the 180-day rule was violated, we must first address whether defendant is entitled to assert the rights granted under the 180-day-rule statute although he faces mandatory consecutive sentencing on the pending charge. Because Smith, supra, would preclude defendant from making a 180-day-rule claim, we must address the validity of Smith, supra, before determining whether defendant's claim is meritorious. We ultimately conclude that defendant's rights under the 180-day rule were not violated (and, in so holding, reach the same outcome as if defendant were not entitled to the protections of the 180-day rule). Nonetheless, our conclusion that a defendant facing consecutive sentencing may assert a claim based on the 180-day-rule statute ensures that our holding is not dicta.1

The 180-day rule is set forth in MCL 780.131:

(1) Whenever the department of corrections receives notice that there is pending in this state any untried warrant, indictment, information, or complaint setting forth against any inmate of a correctional facility of this state a criminal offense for which a prison sentence might be imposed upon conviction, the inmate shall be brought to trial within 180 days after the department of corrections causes to be delivered to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the warrant, indictment, information, or complaint is pending written notice of the place of imprisonment of the inmate and a request for final disposition of the warrant, indictment, information, or complaint. The request shall be accompanied by a statement setting forth the term of commitment under which the prisoner is being held, the time already served, the time remaining to be served on the sentence, the amount of good time or disciplinary credits earned, the time of parole eligibility of the prisoner, and any decisions of the parole board relating to the prisoner. The written notice and statement shall be delivered by certified mail.

(2) This section does not apply to a warrant, indictment, information, or complaint arising from either of the following:

(a) A criminal offense committed by an inmate of a state correctional facility while incarcerated in the correctional facility.

(b) A criminal offense committed by an inmate of a state correctional facility after the inmate has escaped from the correctional facility and before he or she has been returned to the custody of the department of corrections.

MCL 780.133 requires dismissal with prejudice if a prisoner is not brought to trial within the 180-day time limit set forth in the act:

In the event that, within the time limitation set forth in section 1 of this act, action is not commenced on the matter for which request for disposition was made, no court of this state shall any longer have jurisdiction thereof, nor shall the untried warrant, indictment, information or complaint be of any further force or effect, and the court shall enter an order dismissing the same with prejudice.

Michigan courts have inconsistently interpreted MCL 780.131 in determining whether the 180-day rule applies to defendants facing mandatory consecutive sentencing upon conviction of the pending charge. In Loney, supra, the Court of Appeals held that the 180-day rule applies only when the pending charge would allow concurrent sentencing:

The purpose of the statute is clear. It was intended to give the inmate, who had pending offenses not yet tried, an opportunity to have the sentences run concurrently consistent with the principle of law disfavoring accumulations of sentences. This purpose, however, does not apply in the instance of a new offense...

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