Romero v. People, No. 06SC586.

Docket NºNo. 06SC586.
Citation179 P.3d 984
Case DateNovember 26, 2007
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado
179 P.3d 984
William ROMERO, Petitioner
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
No. 06SC586.
Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.
November 26, 2007.

[179 P.3d 985]

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Elizabeth Griffin, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner.

Rodney D. Fouracre, District Attorney, Sixteenth Judicial District, James S. Whitmire, Deputy District Attorney, LaJunta, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.

Justice RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court.


I. Introduction

The issue presented is whether the court of appeals erred in holding that when an offender's sentence to community corrections has been revoked, a court may resentence that offender to a longer term than the original sentence, so long as a hearing is held.1 Petitioner William Romero argues that increasing the offender's sentence violates both section 18-1.3-301(1)(e), C.R.S. (2007), and double jeopardy. We affirm the court of appeals.

II. Facts and Procedural History

In May 2001, Romero pled guilty to one count of distribution of a schedule two controlled substance, a class three felony, and was sentenced to four years in Minnequa Community Corrections. One condition of Romero's sentence was that he remain drug and alcohol free. Over a year later, Romero's urine tested positive for cocaine, and he was terminated from the community corrections program. The sentencing court held a hearing at which counsel for Romero was present. After the hearing, the court sentenced Romero to five years in a community corrections program in Greeley, called the Restitution Center. The court stated that the reason for the increased sentence was that it believed the extra year was needed to rehabilitate Romero.

Romero moved for postconviction relief under Rule 35 of the Colorado Rules of Criminal

179 P.3d 986

Procedure, alleging that the five-year sentence violated subsection (1)(e) because it exceeded the four-year sentence which was originally imposed. The district court agreed with Romero and set aside the five-year sentence, imposing instead a four-year sentence.

The prosecution appealed the sentence reduction. In an unpublished opinion, the court of appeals reversed and remanded for reinstatement of the five-year sentence. Romero appealed that ruling, and this court granted certiorari.2

III. Statutory Interpretation

Romero asserts that the court of appeals erred in reinstating the five-year sentence because the increased sentence violates both the community corrections statute and double jeopardy. If Romero is correct that the court of appeals' interpretation does not comport with the statute, we need not reach the constitutional issue. Therefore, we begin our decision with the statutory analysis.

A. Standard of Review and Methods of Judicial Interpretation

At issue is the correct interpretation of subsection (1)(e) of the community corrections statute. The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which is reviewed de novo. Hendricks v. People, 10 P.3d 1231, 1235 (Colo.2000).

Our primary task when construing a statute is to give effect to the General Assembly's intent. Klinger v. Adams County Sch. Dist. No. 50, 130 P.3d 1027, 1031 (Colo.2006). We determine legislative intent primarily from the plain language of the statute. Indus. Claim Appeals Office v. Ray, 145 P.3d 661, 668 (Colo.2006). If the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, we do not engage in further statutory analysis. Klinger, 130 P.3d at 1031. However, if the statutory language is ambiguous, we may look to other rules of statutory construction or to the legislative history to discern the legislature's intent. Grant v. People, 48 P.3d 543, 546 (Colo.2002).

B. Subsection (1)(e) Implies That a Sentence Increase Is Allowed

Subsection (1)(e) states, "If an offender is rejected after acceptance by a community corrections board or a community corrections program, the court may resentence the offender without any further hearing so long as the offender's sentence does not exceed the sentence which was originally imposed upon the offender." This provision applies when an offender has been sentenced to and accepted by a community corrections board or program and has subsequently been rejected from that board or program (when an offender is "rejected after acceptance"). The rejection may be due to the offender's conduct, such as when an offender violates a condition of treatment. An offender may also be rejected through no fault of his own, such as when a community corrections program is closed. Regardless of the reason for rejection, an offender who is terminated from community corrections is subject to resentencing by a district court. At issue is whether subsection (1)(e) absolutely forbids a sentencing court from increasing an offender's sentence beyond the original sentence to community corrections.

Romero argues that subsection (1)(e) prohibits a sentence increase under all circumstances. The People counter that a sentence increase is allowed when, as here, the offender has been afforded a hearing. We determine by the statute's plain language that, upon holding a hearing, a sentencing court may increase an offender's sentence under subsection (1)(e). We find that subsection (1)(e) implies that an offender's sentence may be increased, and that section 18-1.3-301(1)(h), C.R.S. (2007), makes that implication explicit.

179 P.3d 987

The language of subsection (1)(e) permits a court to "resentence the offender without any further hearing so long as the offender's sentence does not exceed the [originally imposed] sentence." The plain language of the phrase "so long as" makes conditional the court's power to resentence the offender without any further hearing. In other words, the court has the power to omit a hearing only if it meets certain conditions (i.e., if the new sentence does not exceed the original sentence). Implicitly, then, the opposite must also be true; when those conditions are not met (i.e., when the new sentence does exceed the original sentence), the court must hold a hearing. Thus, the language of subsection (1)(e) implies that, under some circumstances, the sentencing court would have the authority to impose a longer sentence than the original sentence to community corrections. Put another way, the implication of the statute's plain language is that the court has the authority to increase an offender's sentence on the condition that the offender is afforded a hearing.

C. Subsection (1)(h) Makes Explicit the Implication of Permissibility in Subsection (1)(e)

Subsection (1)(h) makes explicit the implication in subsection (1)(e) that a sentence increase is permissible. Subsection (1)(h) states in its entirety, "The sentencing court shall have the authority to modify the sentence of an offender who has been directly sentenced to a community corrections program in the same manner as if the offender had been placed on probation." Under subsection (1)(h), therefore, this court must look to what sentence Romero could have been given had he violated a condition of probation rather than a condition of his community corrections sentence.

An examination of Colorado law indicates that had Romero been placed on probation, the sentencing court could have modified his sentence by increasing it to five years. We look to section 16-11-206(5), C.R.S. (2007), because it governs the resentencing of an offender who has violated a condition of probation.3 When an offender violates a condition of probation, a sentencing court may "impose any sentence ... which might originally have been imposed...." § 16-11-206(5). The sentencing court in this case could initially have imposed a sentence of up to twelve years in the presumptive range, or more in the aggravated range. § 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V), C.R.S. (2007) (presumptive range sentence for class three felony ranges between four and twelve years). Therefore, had Romero violated a condition of probation rather than a condition of his sentence, the sentencing court could have increased his sentence to five years at community corrections. Because subsection (1)(h) by its plain language permits a sentencing court to sentence an offender as if he had been placed on probation, the five-year sentence is permissible.4

D. Result Is Reasonable and Consistent with Caselaw
1. Interpretation of Subsection (1)(e) Is Rational

This interpretation of subsection (1)(e) leads to a rational result. First, it is reasonable that the legislature would give courts flexibility to increase a sentence when the circumstances merit it. In fact, the legislative declaration to the community corrections statute states, "[I]t is the purpose of this article to establish and maintain community corrections programs which provide the

179 P.3d 988

courts ... with more flexibility and a broader range of correctional options for offenders...." § 17-27-101, C.R.S. (2007). Second, information about an offender's correctional needs may come to light during an offender's time at community corrections, justifying a sentencing change.5 Here, for instance, the trial court justified the imposition of a longer rehabilitation period by noting Romero's initial success at community corrections and his subsequent relapse to cocaine. Third, it is reasonable that the legislature would afford a hearing only to those who receive increased sentences, thereby providing those offenders with more procedural rights than an offender whose sentence is reduced or stays the same.

Last, this reading is consistent with the distinct functions of subsections (1)(e) and (1)(h). By its own terms, subsection (1)(e) applies only when the sentencing court has not held a hearing. On the other hand, because a probationer is afforded a hearing before resentencing under section 16-11-206(5), subsection (1)(h) applies only where the offender has been afforded a hearing. See § 16-11-206(5) (court may revoke probation within five...

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37 practice notes
  • People v. Nelson, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1237
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • December 4, 2014
    ...acted in bad faith.a. Standard of Review¶ 17 We review the district court's interpretation of section 18–1405(1) de novo. Romero v. People,179 P.3d 984, 986 (Colo.2007)(“The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which is reviewed de novo.”); People v. Lahr,2013 COA 57, ¶ 30, 316......
  • People v. Wiseman, Court of Appeals No. 14CA0339
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 20, 2017
    ...imposition of an increased sentence if the defendant lacked a legitimate expectation of finality in the sentence." Romero v. People , 179 P.3d 984, 989 (Colo. 2007). ¶ 27 "A defendant can have no legitimate expectation of finality in a sentence that, by statute, is subject to furt......
  • People ex rel. Vivekanathan, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1203
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • October 24, 2013
    ...(Colo.2009) (issue “may” continue to evade review “because of the short timeframe” associated with these appeals); Romero v. People, 179 P.3d 984, 986 n.2 (Colo.2007) (issue would evade review “given the relatively short sentences involved and the length of the appeals process”); Colo. Dep'......
  • People v. Helms, Court of Appeals No. 14CA0862
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • June 16, 2016
    ...construe the requirements of sections 16–11–206(1), (2) and 18–1.3–1010(2)(a), (b), C.R.S. 2015, which we do de novo. Romero v. People , 179 P.3d 984, 986 (Colo. 2007).2. Section 16–11–206¶ 64 Section 16–11–206(1), (2) provides:(1) At the first appearance of the probationer in court or at t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • People v. Nelson, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1237
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • December 4, 2014
    ...acted in bad faith.a. Standard of Review¶ 17 We review the district court's interpretation of section 18–1405(1) de novo. Romero v. People,179 P.3d 984, 986 (Colo.2007)(“The interpretation of a statute is a question of law, which is reviewed de novo.”); People v. Lahr,2013 COA 57, ¶ 30, 316......
  • People ex rel. Vivekanathan, Court of Appeals No. 13CA1203
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • October 24, 2013
    ...(Colo.2009) (issue “may” continue to evade review “because of the short timeframe” associated with these appeals); Romero v. People, 179 P.3d 984, 986 n.2 (Colo.2007) (issue would evade review “given the relatively short sentences involved and the length of the appeals process”); Colo. Dep'......
  • People v. Wiseman, Court of Appeals No. 14CA0339
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 20, 2017
    ...the imposition of an increased sentence if the defendant lacked a legitimate expectation of finality in the sentence." Romero v. People , 179 P.3d 984, 989 (Colo. 2007). ¶ 27 "A defendant can have no legitimate expectation of finality in a sentence that, by statute, is subject to further re......
  • People v. Helms, Court of Appeals No. 14CA0862
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • June 16, 2016
    ...construe the requirements of sections 16–11–206(1), (2) and 18–1.3–1010(2)(a), (b), C.R.S. 2015, which we do de novo. Romero v. People , 179 P.3d 984, 986 (Colo. 2007).2. Section 16–11–206¶ 64 Section 16–11–206(1), (2) provides:(1) At the first appearance of the probationer in court or at t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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