State v. Blondin

Decision Date28 July 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-048,94-048
Citation665 A.2d 587,164 Vt. 55
PartiesSTATE of Vermont v. Gerald W. BLONDIN.
CourtVermont Supreme Court

Robert Butterfield, Caledonia County Deputy State's Attorney, St. Johnsbury and John W. Kessler, Assistant Attorney General, Montpelier, for plaintiff-appellee.

Robert Appel, Defender General and William A. Nelson, Appellate Defender, Montpelier, for defendant-appellant.


JOHNSON, Justice.

Petitioner appeals the district court's ruling that he is not entitled to presentence credit for time served because he had already received credit for that time toward a prior sentence. We affirm.

On June 27, 1993, while on parole in connection with a 1969 second-degree murder conviction, petitioner was arrested for simple assault and unlawful mischief. The new charges also constituted parole violations, which triggered revocation proceedings that were initiated that same day. Petitioner was arraigned on the new charges on June 29, but failed to post the required bond; accordingly, a mittimus issued for his pretrial detention. On July 20, 1993, petitioner's parole was revoked and he was given credit toward his paroled sentence for the time he spent in custody following his June arrest. On December 13, 1993, petitioner was convicted of simple assault and acquitted of unlawful mischief. On January 5, 1994, he was sentenced to eleven-to-twelve months to be served consecutively to the paroled sentence. Petitioner requested credit for the six months he spent in custody serving the underlying sentence before his sentencing on the assault conviction. The trial court denied any credit and petitioner appealed.

Petitioner argues that the plain meaning of 13 V.S.A. § 7031(b) and the case law construing the statute require that he be given credit for the six months he spent in jail before he was sentenced on the simple assault conviction, notwithstanding that (1) he received credit toward his underlying murder sentence for the three weeks he spent in jail before his parole was revoked, and (2) for the other five months, he was serving the underlying sentence. In short, defendant seeks double credit for the six months he spent in jail between June 1993 and January 1994--credit toward both his underlying sentence and his new sentence--even though the district court determined that the sentences should be served consecutively.

We decline to grant the double credit defendant seeks, which would, in effect, make the underlying and new sentences concurrent for the six-month period. See Emerson v. State, 498 N.E.2d 1301, 1302-03 (Ind.Ct.App.1986) (if defendant were granted presentence credit against sentence imposed for escape in addition to credit for sentence being served at time of escape, effect would be to impose concurrent sentence for portion of escape sentence, despite fact that sentences were imposed consecutively). The plain meaning of 13 V.S.A. § 7031(b) does not require that parole violators who are jailed and do not make bail on new charges be given double credit for time served before imposition of either the new or the underlying sentence, whichever comes later, even if the sentences are imposed consecutively. Such an irrational result would be contrary to the view of the vast majority of courts construing virtually identical statutes in similar situations. More importantly, it would undermine the trial court's ability to impose consecutive sentences, and would provide incentives for both defendants and the State to try to manipulate the timing of judicial proceedings so as to shorten or lengthen the ultimate sentence served.

Such absurd consequences need not follow from § 7031(b), which requires that credit be given "for any days spent in custody in connection with the offense for which sentence was imposed." Section 7031(b) does not address the circumstances present in this case and does not specifically authorize double credit for jail time. On many occasions, we have held that our overriding goal is to construe a statute according to the legislature's purpose and intent, and that we are not confined to a literal reading of the statute if applying its plain language would conflict with its purpose or lead to unjust, absurd, or irrational consequences. 1 E.g., State v. Forcier, 162 Vt. 71, 74-75, 643 A.2d 1200, 1202 (1994); State v. Therrien, 161 Vt. 26, 31, 633 A.2d 272, 275 (1993); State v. Papazoni, 159 Vt. 578, 580-81, 622 A.2d 501, 503 (1993); State v. Caron, 155 Vt. 492, 513, 586 A.2d 1127, 1139 (1990). As we have stated before, the purpose of § 7031(b) is to ensure that offenders unable to make bail do not serve a longer sentence than more affluent defendants who are able to make bail and avoid pretrial incarceration. In re Perry, 137 Vt. 168, 170, 400 A.2d 1013, 1015 (1979). Giving defendant double credit under the present circumstances would do nothing to further that purpose, notwithstanding his claims to the contrary.

Federal and state courts reviewing almost identical statutes in analogous situations have not felt constrained by the plain-meaning rule to award double credit toward consecutively imposed sentences. Section 7031(b) is modeled after a virtually identical federal statute that was enacted in response to two United States Supreme Court opinions mandating credit for presentence jail time. Compare 13 V.S.A. § 7031(b) ("The court shall give the person credit toward service of his sentence for any days spent in custody in connection with the offense for which sentence was imposed.") with 18 U.S.C. § 3568 ("The Attorney General shall give any such person credit toward service of his sentence for any days spent in custody in connection with the offense or acts for which sentence was imposed."). 2 The federal courts have unanimously refused to allow double credit unders 3568 in situations similar to the one presented here. See State v. Boettcher, 144 Wis.2d 86, 423 N.W.2d 533, 536-37 (1988) ("federal courts have been unanimous in concluding that, in the case of consecutive sentences, there is no requirement that there be a time credit against more than one sentence"; "federal courts are firm and unanimous that there shall be no dual credit for the same presentence time served").

For example, in Doyle v. Elsea, 658 F.2d 512 (7th Cir.1981), a parolee was arrested and jailed on the charge of interstate transportation of forged travelers' checks. A week later, a parole violation warrant was issued against the defendant; as a result of the warrant, the bondsman refused to bail him out, and he was unable to raise the full amount of bail in cash. He remained incarcerated for four months before he was convicted and sentenced for the new offense in 1978. Some time after the conviction, the parole violation warrant was lodged as a detainer against the defendant. Two years later, his parole was revoked, and he sought credit toward his underlying sentence for the four months he spent in jail before being convicted on the new offense. 3 The district court granted the request, reasoning that his pretrial custody was "in connection with" his parole violation. In overruling the district court, the Seventh Circuit held as follows:

Doyle would have this court ... hold that such credit must be granted without regard to whether the credit was also applied to the arrest-related sentence. Such a rule would disregard the practical realities of the case before us. We therefore decline to adopt it.

As a practical matter, Doyle spent four months in pretrial custody for two reasons: because he was accused of committing a crime, and because he was accused of violating his parole. It seems obvious--and not particularly unusual--that he was in pretrial custody "in connection with" both the violator term and the 1978 sentence. Therefore, under section 3568, he is entitled to receive credit for the pretrial custody. That is not to say that he is entitled to double credit. It simply means that he is entitled to have the total amount of time he must spend in prison under his two sentences reduced by the amount of time he spent in pretrial custody.

There is no dispute that Doyle received credit on his 1978 sentence for the full period he spent in pretrial custody. Because the parole violator term was ordered to run consecutively to the 1978 sentence, the effect of applying the credit to the 1978 sentence was to reduce the total amount of time Doyle must actually spend in prison by four months. That, and no more, is what Doyle is due under section 3568.

Id. at 515 (emphasis added); see Wolcott v. Norton, 365 F.Supp. 138, 140 (D.Conn.1973) (Congress did not intend § 3568 to credit state pretrial detention time toward state sentence and again toward underlying federal sentence imposed due to parole violation; other courts faced with similar claims have declined to award double credit); Echeandia v. United States Attorney General, 339 F.Supp. 272, 273 (S.D.N.Y.1972) (accord).

Courts in other jurisdictions that have statutes modeled after § 3568 have also refused to grant double credit in situations like the one presented here. For example, construing a statute nearly identical to ours in relevant part, the Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed a court of appeal's ruling giving double credit under similar circumstances. Boettcher, 423 N.W.2d at 534. In that case, a probationer was arrested on a probation-hold warrant for being in possession of a handgun. The court noted that it was unclear whether the probationer was taken into custody for the crime of being a felon in possession of a handgun or for violating conditions of probation, but assumed for purposes of argument that he was being held for both of those reasons. Id. at 534 n. 1. The probationer spent ten days in jail before being released from custody on the firearms charge on a signature bond; however, he remained in custody under the probation hold. His probation was revoked and the...

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    • United States
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