Robles v. People, Nos. 90SC179

Docket NºNos. 90SC179
Citation811 P.2d 804
Case DateMay 20, 1991
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Page 804

811 P.2d 804
Benito ROBLES, Petitioner,
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
Victor ROBLES, Petitioner,
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
Nos. 90SC179, 90SC116.
Supreme Court of Colorado,
En Banc.
May 20, 1991.
Rehearings Denied June 10, 1991.

Page 805

David F. Vela, Colorado State Public Defender, Patrick J. Mulligan, Jenine Jensen, Deputy State Public Defenders, Denver, for petitioner Benito Robles.

Brega & Winters, Pamela A. Shaddock, Greeley, for petitioner Victor Robles.

Gale A. Norton, Atty. Gen., Raymond T. Slaughter, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Timothy M. Tymkovich, Sol. Gen., Clement P. Engle, Asst. Atty. Gen., Denver, for respondent.

Chief Justice ROVIRA delivered the Opinion of the Court.

This is a certiorari review of two court of appeals decisions, Benito Robles v. People, No. 88CA163 (Colo.App. Jan. 4, 1990), and Victor Robles v. People, No. 88CA289 (Colo.App. Jan. 4, 1990). 1 Each of the defendants was convicted of two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of first-degree assault, robbery of the elderly, first-degree burglary, theft, aggravated motor-vehicle theft, and seven counts of crime of violence; each was subsequently sentenced to five consecutive terms of imprisonment totaling 112 years. In both decisions the court of appeals upheld the trial court's ruling that the crime-of-violence statute, subsection 16-11-309(1)(a), 8A C.R.S. (1986), mandated the imposition of consecutive sentences whenever a defendant is convicted of more than one crime of violence arising out of the same incident. We disagree and accordingly reverse and remand for resentencing.

From 1985 to 1988, subsection 16-11-309(1)(a) (the 1985 statute), under which the defendants were sentenced, provided in relevant part that "[a] person convicted of two separate crimes of violence arising out of the same incident shall be sentenced for such crimes so that sentences are served consecutively rather than concurrently" ("the consecutive-sentence clause"). 2 The issue in this case is whether the court of appeals correctly held that the 1985 statute required the trial court to impose consecutive sentences for the five crime-of-violence convictions underlying the substantive criminal counts. The court of appeals rejected the defendants' argument that, where a person is convicted of two or more crimes of violence arising out of the same transaction, the 1985 statute required only that the trial court sentence that person to two consecutive terms and that the statute left to the trial court's discretion whether it should impose consecutive sentences on the remaining crime-of-violence convictions. 3

Page 806

The issue presented requires that we interpret the 1985 statute applying well-settled rules of statutory interpretation. Interpretation of statutes is a question of law, and this court may review interpretations of statutes under a de novo standard of review. See, e.g., People v. Terry, 791 P.2d 374, 376 (Colo.1990). The legislature's intent is the polestar of statutory construction. Courts look first to the statute's language to determine the legislative intent, and "[i]f the language in the statute is clear and the intent of the General Assembly may be discerned with reasonable certainty, it is not necessary to resort to other rules of statutory interpretation." McKinney v. Kautzky, 801 P.2d 508, 509 (Colo.1990).

The 1985 statute's provision that "[a] person convicted of two separate crimes of violence arising out of the same incident shall be sentenced for such crimes so that sentences are served consecutively rather than concurrently" is not ambiguous. Under the statute, a defendant convicted of more than one crime of violence arising out of the same incident must be sentenced, at a minimum, to two consecutive terms for "such crimes." However, the statute requires nothing more of the trial court in the imposition of sentences for any remaining crime-of-violence convictions; rather, the statute leaves to the sentencing court's discretion whether additional consecutive sentences should be imposed for other crime-of-violence convictions arising out of the same incident.

In 1988 the legislature amended subsection 16-11-309(1)(a) (the 1988 statute), in relevant part as follows: "A person convicted of two or more separate crimes of violence arising out of the same incident shall be sentenced for such crimes so that sentences are served consecutively rather than concurrently." 4 See 1988 Colo.Sess.Laws 679 (codified at § 16-11-309(1)(a), 8A C.R.S. (Supp.1990)) (emphasis supplied).

When a statute is amended it is presumed that the legislature intended to change the law. E.g., People v. Davis, 794 P.2d 159, 181 (Colo.1990). This presumption, however, may be rebutted when arguably more specific sections are added to a general section because such legislative action may indicate the legislature's intention to clarify the existing statute. Id.; People v. Hale, 654 P.2d 849, 851 (Colo.1982). The People argue that the 1988 amendment was not intended to change the statute to increase the severity of punishment for multiple crime-of-violence convictions but rather to "clarif[y] any ambiguity" in the consecutive-sentence clause, and therefore the presumption that the 1988 amendments "changed" the consecutive-sentence clause is rebutted. We disagree.

As we have indicated, the 1985 statute's consecutive-sentence clause contains no ambiguity, and thus there is no ambiguity to "clarify." We reject the People's assertion that "two" in the 1985 statute's consecutive-sentence clause somehow can mean "two or more." We must construe statutes as we find them, and in this case "two" in the 1985 statute can mean no more or less than "two."

Although this court has never considered the issue in this case, the court of appeals has construed the consecutive-sentence clause as requiring consecutive sentences for all convictions for crimes of violence arising out of the same incident in two cases. See People v. Beyer, 793 P.2d 644, 647-48 (Colo.App.1990); and People v. Pena, 794 P.2d 1070, 1072-73 (Colo.App.), cert. denied (1990); see also People v. McGregor, 757 P.2d 1082, 1084 (Colo.App.1987) (noting, in dictum, that defendant who was convicted of multiple counts of crimes of violence was "required to be sentenced on a consecutive, rather than on a

Page 807

concurrent, basis"), cert. denied (1988). In Pena the court stated:

[T]he 1988 amendment adding the more specific language, "or more," is consistent with the General Assembly's intent to punish multiple crimes of violence more severely...

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53 practice notes
  • People v. Wiedemer, No. 92SA231
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • May 10, 1993
    ...P.2d 374, 376 (Colo.1990). In so doing, we look first to the language of the statute itself. Schuett, 833 P.2d at 47; Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804, 806 (Colo.1991). When that language is clear so that the intent can be discerned with reasonable certainty, there is no need to resort to oth......
  • People v. McCullough, No. 99SA317.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 3, 2000
    ...statute. Furthermore, when a statute is amended, it is presumed that the legislature intended to change the law. See Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804, 806 (Colo.1991); People v. Hale, 654 P.2d 849, 851 With these guidelines in mind, we look now to the statute in question. As noted above, sect......
  • Kazadi v. People, No. 11SC264.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • December 20, 2012
    ...of counsel.A.Standard of Review ¶ 11 Interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which we review de novo. Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804, 806 (Colo.1991). Our fundamental responsibility in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the purpose and intent of the General As......
  • People v. Borghesi, No. 99CA1358.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • March 1, 2001
    ...episode, § 16-11-309, C.R.S.2000; see People v. Beyer, 793 P.2d 644 (Colo.App.1990), disapproved on other grounds, Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804 (Colo.1991); and (4) the prosecution can charge other offenses, such as felony menacing, § 18-3-206, C.R.S.2000, with respect to other victims wh......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
53 cases
  • People v. Wiedemer, No. 92SA231
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • May 10, 1993
    ...P.2d 374, 376 (Colo.1990). In so doing, we look first to the language of the statute itself. Schuett, 833 P.2d at 47; Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804, 806 (Colo.1991). When that language is clear so that the intent can be discerned with reasonable certainty, there is no need to resort to oth......
  • People v. McCullough, No. 99SA317.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 3, 2000
    ...statute. Furthermore, when a statute is amended, it is presumed that the legislature intended to change the law. See Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804, 806 (Colo.1991); People v. Hale, 654 P.2d 849, 851 With these guidelines in mind, we look now to the statute in question. As noted above, sect......
  • Kazadi v. People, No. 11SC264.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • December 20, 2012
    ...of counsel.A.Standard of Review ¶ 11 Interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which we review de novo. Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804, 806 (Colo.1991). Our fundamental responsibility in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the purpose and intent of the General As......
  • People v. Borghesi, No. 99CA1358.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • March 1, 2001
    ...episode, § 16-11-309, C.R.S.2000; see People v. Beyer, 793 P.2d 644 (Colo.App.1990), disapproved on other grounds, Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804 (Colo.1991); and (4) the prosecution can charge other offenses, such as felony menacing, § 18-3-206, C.R.S.2000, with respect to other victims wh......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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