State v. Baca

Citation926 P.2d 528,187 Ariz. 61
Decision Date29 October 1996
Docket NumberNo. 1,CA-CR,1
PartiesSTATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Stephen Sabin BACA, Appellant. 95-0718.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Arizona

Page 528

926 P.2d 528
187 Ariz. 61
STATE of Arizona, Appellee,
Stephen Sabin BACA, Appellant.
No. 1 CA-CR 95-0718.
Court of Appeals of Arizona,
Division 1, Department E.
Oct. 29, 1996.

Page 529

[187 Ariz. 62] Grant Woods, Attorney General by Paul J. McMurdie, Chief Counsel, Criminal Appeals Section, and Crane McClennen, Assistant Attorney General, Phoenix, for Appellee.

Myrna J. Parker, Navajo County Public Defender, Holbrook, for Appellant.


SULT, Judge.

Stephen Sabin Baca ("defendant") appeals from a trial court order denying his Rule 24.3 motion to modify sentence. See Ariz. R.Crim. P. 24.3. We dismiss defendant's appeal because we find that in defendant's circumstances, a direct appeal of a denial of a Rule 24.3 motion is precluded by Arizona Revised Statutes Annotated ("A.R.S.") section 13-4033(B) (Supp.1995).


Defendant entered into a probation violation agreement admitting that he violated a written term of his probation. 1 At the admission hearing conducted on July 13, 1995, the trial court informed defendant that by admitting to a violation of his probation, he was waiving, among other things, his right to direct appeal. He was further informed that his only means for review of his admission and any disposition imposed thereon was through a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. The trial court found defendant's admission was made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily and accepted the admission. At disposition, the court found probation was no longer appropriate and sentenced defendant to aggravated, consecutive terms of one and three quarter years imprisonment on three counts of sexual conduct with a minor, all class six felonies.

Defendant did not petition for Rule 32 relief nor did he attempt to directly appeal from his revocation and disposition proceedings. Instead, he moved the trial court to modify his sentence pursuant to Rule 24.3 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure, alleging the sentence was unlawfully imposed because the trial judge failed to consider substantial mitigating factors. The trial court denied defendant's motion without comment. From this denial, defendant timely appealed.


The state presents a threshold issue which we must address. That issue is whether admitting to a violation of probation precludes a defendant from seeking direct

Page 530

[187 Ariz. 63] appellate review of a trial court's denial of a Rule 24.3 motion. Stated another way, is defendant's exclusive avenue for appellate review of an allegedly illegal sentence a Rule 32 petition for post-conviction relief and, if denied, a petition for review to this court?

Our analysis of this issue requires that we construe rules of court, as well as statutes, and in construing court rules, we apply principles of statutory construction. State v. Stewart, 168 Ariz. 167, 168, 812 P.2d 985, 986 (1991). Our construction must necessarily be governed by the overarching principle that when interpreting a court rule or statute, we are seeking to ascertain the intent of the framer. Tucson Elec. Power Co. v. Arizona Dep't of Revenue, 174 Ariz. 507, 511, 851 P.2d 132, 136 (App.1992). Moreover, we presume that the framer did not intend an absurd result and our construction must be aimed at avoiding such a consequence. Resolution Trust Corp. v. Western Technologies, Inc., 179 Ariz. 195, 201, 877 P.2d 294, 300 (App.1994).

Prior to 1992, a defendant could appeal directly from a judgment or sentence entered pursuant to a guilty plea or admission to a probation violation. See State v. Stotts, 144 Ariz. 72, 77, 695 P.2d 1110, 1115 (1985). Moreover, separate from a direct appeal from the sentence, a defendant could directly appeal from a post-conviction order denying a Rule 24.3 motion to modify a sentence. See State v. Wynn, 114 Ariz. 561, 562-63, 562 P.2d 734, 735-36 (App.1977). In 1992, however, the Arizona Supreme Court made extensive amendments to the rules of procedure governing post-conviction relief, guilty pleas and probation violation admissions. Ariz. R.Crim. P. 32, 17, 27 (Supp.1995). Concurrently, the Arizona legislature amended A.R.S. section 13-4033, governing criminal appeals by defendants, and sections 13-4231 to 13-4240, governing post-conviction relief. 1992 Ariz. Sess. Laws, Chs. 184, § 1, 358, §§ 1-9. These rule and statutory changes were intended to preclude defendants in noncapital cases from seeking direct appellate review of a judgment or sentence that is entered pursuant to a guilty plea or a probation violation admission. See Wilson v. Ellis, 176 Ariz. 121, 123, 859 P.2d 744, 746 (1993). The state argues that these rule and statutory changes also preclude direct appellate review of the denial of a post-conviction Rule 24.3 motion when a defendant admits a violation of probation.

Defendant argues the contrary proposition and begins by pointing out that none of the amendments to the court rules referenced Rule 24.3. From this, defendant concludes that our Supreme Court did not intend to affect the pre-1992 procedure whereby a defendant could appeal from an order denying Rule 24.3 relief separately from any appeal from the underlying conviction or sentence. Wynn, 114 Ariz. at 562-63, 562 P.2d at 735-36; see also State v. Renner, 177 Ariz. 395, 397, 868 P.2d 978, 980 (App.1993) (noting in a guilty plea appeal decided under the pre-1992 procedure that a defendant's failure to appeal a Rule 24.3 denial did not deprive the appellate court of jurisdiction to decide the same issues in defendant's direct appeal from the sentence, citing Wynn ).

Defendant acknowledges the legislature's 1992 amendments to section 13-4033, but argues that, assuming these amendments are construed to rescind the right to appeal from the denial of a Rule 24.3 motion, they are in direct conflict with that rule and the prior judicial interpretation placed on it by Wynn. Therefore, defendant reasons, the statute is ineffective to accomplish such rescission since the constitution vests rulemaking power exclusively in the supreme court, citing State v. Jackson, 184 Ariz. 296, 298, 908 P.2d 1081, 1083 (App.1995).

There is some superficial validity to defendant's argument. It is true that the legislature lacks the power to adopt a procedural rule inconsistent with one enacted by our Supreme Court. State v. Bejarano, 158 Ariz. 253, 254, 762 P.2d 540, 541 (1988). It is also true that the judicial interpretation of a court rule becomes as much a part of the rule as if the words were originally included therein. See State v. Bateman, 113 Ariz. 107, 110, 547 P.2d 6, 9, cert. denied 429 U.S. 864, 97 S.Ct. 170, 50...

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