State v. Cyr

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Citation461 P.3d 360,195 Wash.2d 492
Decision Date16 April 2020
Docket NumberNo. 97323-7,97323-7
Parties STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Johnny Ray CYR, Petitioner.

195 Wash.2d 492
461 P.3d 360

STATE of Washington, Respondent,
v.
Johnny Ray CYR, Petitioner.

No. 97323-7

Supreme Court of Washington.

Argued January 21, 2020
Filed: April 16, 2020


Lise Ellner, Attorney at Law, Po Box 2711, Vashon, WA, 98070-2711, Erin Cheyenne Sperger, Erin Sperger PLLC, 1617 Boylston Ave., Seattle, WA, for Petitioner.

Sara I. Beigh, Lewis County Prosecutors Office, 345 W. Main St. Fl. 2, Chehalis, WA, for Respondent.

Russell G. Brown, WA Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, 206 10th Ave. Se, Olympia, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

Teymur Gasanovich Askerov, Black & Askerov, PLLC, 705 2nd Ave. Ste. 1111, Seattle, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Wacdl Amicus Committee.

Thomas E. Weaver Jr., Attorney at Law, Po Box 1056, Bremerton, WA, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL).

YU, J

195 Wash.2d 495

¶1 This case requires us to determine the statutory maximum sentence for petitioner Johnny Ray Cyr’s three convictions for selling a controlled substance (heroin) for profit. We hold that if Cyr has a prior conviction for violating the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (UCSA), ch. 69.50 RCW, "or under any statute of the United States or of any state relating to narcotic drugs, marihuana, depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogenic drugs," then his statutory maximum sentence is 120 months. RCW 69.50.408(2). In that case, he must be sentenced within the standard range provided by the Sentencing Reform Act of

461 P.3d 362

1981 (SRA), ch. 9.94A RCW. However, it is not clear from the record whether Cyr has such a prior qualifying conviction. We therefore remand to the trial court to address that question and, depending on the answer, to conduct further proceedings as directed by this opinion.

195 Wash.2d 496

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2 On July 24, 2017, Cyr pleaded guilty to three counts of sale of a controlled substance (heroin) for profit in violation of RCW 69.50.410(1). Cyr stipulated to his prior convictions and to his offender score of 5. Based on his convictions and offender score, the standard sentence range provided by the SRA is 68+ to 100 months.1 RCW 9.94A.517(1). The parties dispute whether the SRA standard range applies to Cyr—the State contends it does, while Cyr contends it does not.

¶3 Cyr relies on RCW 69.50.410(2)(a), which provides, "Any person convicted of a violation of [ RCW 69.50.410(1) ] shall receive a sentence of not more than five years ... for the first offense." Cyr has no previous convictions for selling a controlled substance for profit, and it is undisputed that in this context, his current convictions are not considered prior convictions as to each other. See RCW 69.50.408(2), .410(2)(b), (3)(b). Cyr therefore requested a sentence of "no more than the 60 month maximum." Clerk’s Papers (CP) at 38.

¶4 The State does not dispute that Cyr’s maximum sentence would ordinarily be 60 months. However, the State points to RCW 69.50.408(1), which provides, "Any person convicted of a second or subsequent offense under [the UCSA] may be imprisoned for a term up to twice the term otherwise authorized." It is undisputed that Cyr has prior convictions for attempted possession of an imitation controlled substance and possession of marijuana. The State therefore contends that Cyr’s statutory maximum sentence automatically doubled from 60 months to 120 months, and accordingly requested a standard-range sentence of 90 months on each count.

195 Wash.2d 497

¶5 Prior to accepting Cyr’s guilty plea, the court noted the parties’ dispute for the record and asked Cyr whether he wanted to plead guilty even though the court might ultimately agree with the State on the sentencing issue. Cyr confirmed that he did and that he understood his standard sentence range was "68 to 100 months." Verbatim Tr. of Proceedings (VTP) (July 24, 2017) at 5. The court found that Cyr’s guilty pleas were "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made" and that he had "a full understanding of the nature of these offenses and the consequences to pleading guilty." Id. at 9.

¶6 Following briefing and oral argument, the sentencing court ruled that Cyr’s statutory maximum sentence is 60 months. The court recognized that RCW 69.50.408(1) "does allow for the doubling of the statutory maximum," but it applied "the rule of lenity" to conclude that RCW 69.50.410 "directs the court not to impose more than five years in this case." VTP (Aug. 23, 2017) at 30-31. Because five years (60 months) is below the SRA standard sentence range, the court determined that Cyr’s "standard sentencing range" is "60 to 60." Id. at 31. Cyr was therefore given concurrent 60-month terms for each conviction.

¶7 On the State’s appeal, the Court of Appeals held that "[t]he plain language of RCW 69.50.408(1) compels the conclusion that the doubling of the statutory maximum sentence is automatic," so "Cyr’s maximum sentence was 120 months." State v. Cyr , 8 Wash. App. 2d 834, 840, 844, 441 P.3d 1238 (2019). The court therefore "remand[ed] for the trial court to exercise its discretion in sentencing Cyr within the standard range." Id. at 844, 441 P.3d 1238. We granted Cyr’s petition for review and accepted an amicus brief from the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (WACDL).

ISSUES

¶8 A. If Cyr has a prior qualifying conviction for purposes of RCW 69.50.408, must he

461 P.3d 363

be sentenced within the SRA standard range?

195 Wash.2d 498

¶9 B. Does Cyr have a prior qualifying conviction?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶10 The sentencing court’s decision was based on its determination that RCW 69.50.410 "directs the court not to impose more than five years in this case," such that Cyr’s "standard sentencing range" is "60 to 60." VTP (Aug. 23, 2017) at 30-31. The question before us is whether the court’s statutory interpretation was correct. "Statutory interpretation is a question of law that this court reviews de novo." In re Pers. Restraint of Cruz, 157 Wash.2d 83, 87, 134 P.3d 1166 (2006).

ANALYSIS

A. Overview of felony sentencing procedures

¶11 Cyr’s sentence is governed by statutes in two different chapters of the RCW, the SRA and the UCSA. Harmonizing these statutes is complicated by the fact that the UCSA predates the SRA by 10 years. See LAWS OF 1971, 1st Ex. Sess., ch. 308. As a result, some UCSA statutes, including the ones at issue here, contain sentencing provisions that were enacted in the context of Washington’s prior indeterminate sentencing scheme. See id. § 69.50.408 ; LAWS OF 1973, 2d Ex. Sess., ch. 2, § 2.

¶12 Such provisions remain in effect today, and the legislature has not yet amended the statutory language to reflect the determinate sentencing scheme now provided by the SRA. See RCW 69.50.408, .410; Cruz, 157 Wash.2d at 88, 134 P.3d 1166. Nevertheless, UCSA violations are clearly subject to the SRA, which includes a standard range sentencing grid and a list of seriousness levels for UCSA offenses. RCW 9.94A.517, .518. It is therefore necessary to understand how felony sentencing operated both before and after the passage of the SRA in order to interpret the statutes’ plain language in context. See Cruz, 157 Wash.2d at 88, 134 P.3d 1166.

195 Wash.2d 499

¶13 "For 75 years Washington criminal law relied upon indeterminate sentencing, with maximum sentences specified for all felony offenses." WASH. SENTENCING GUIDELINES COMM’N, A DECADE OF SENTENCING REFORM: WASHINGTON AND ITS GUIDELINES 1981-1991 5 (1991) ( A DECADE OF SENTENCING REFORM ), https://www.cfc.wa.gov/PublicationSentencing/Research/DecadeSentencingReform_1992.pdf [https://perma.cc/J6YG-5QWN]. When a person was convicted, the court was required to "fix the maximum term of such person’s sentence only." RCW 9.95.010. The court had no discretion in setting the maximum term; it had to be "the maximum provided by law for the crime of which such person was convicted, if the law provides for a maximum term." Id.

¶14 However, the person would not necessarily serve the maximum term in prison. instead, the person would be given a "minimum term," which was set by the former Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, subject to certain statutory minimum terms. 13B SETH A. FINE, WASHINGTON PRACTICE: CRIMINAL LAW AND SENTENCING § 42:2, at 464 (3d ed. 2019) (citing RCWA 9.95.040 ). At the end of the minimum term, if the board determined that "rehabilitation was complete," then the person would be released on parole, subject to conditions and supervision. Id. (citing RCWA 9.95.100 ). The person could be "returned to prison for the commission of any crime or for any violation of the conditions of parole" at any time before the maximum term expired. Id. at 464-65. Thus, "[t]he Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, not the judge, determined how much time the offender actually spent in prison." A DECADE OF SENTENCING REFORM at 5.

¶15 Following significant...

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6 cases
  • State v. Peterson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • November 18, 2021
    ...we announced our decision in State v. Cyr , where we concluded that the SRA provides the applicable sentences for UCSA convictions. 195 Wash.2d 492, 508, 461 P.3d 360 (2020). Both parties submitted additional briefing on Cyr 's applicability, and we granted 498 P.3d 940 review. 195 Wash.2d ......
  • State v. Grocery Mfrs. Ass'n
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • April 16, 2020
    ...Thus, every violation of the specific failure-to-report statute also constitutes a violation of the more general concealment statute—not 461 P.3d 360 just in the abstract, but also as applied to the acts in this case. For that reason, I would vacate the concealment violation and remand for ......
  • State v. Peterson
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • November 18, 2021
    ...decision in State v. Cyr, where we concluded that the SRA provides the 2 applicable sentences for UCSA convictions. 195 Wn.2d 492, 508, 461 P.3d 360 (2020). Both parties submitted additional briefing on Cyr's applicability, and we granted review. 195 Wn.2d 1023 (2020). Peterson subsequently......
  • State v. Sexton
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • August 4, 2020
    ...Washington Supreme Court recently held that RCW 69.50.408 automatically doubles the maximum sentence. State v. Cyr, 195 Wn.2d 492, 504, 461 P.3d 360 (2020). Sexton's criminal history lists multiple prior felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance. However, it is unclear fro......
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