State v. Mainwaring

Decision Date23 January 2007
Docket NumberNo. 05-508.,05-508.
Citation151 P.3d 53,2007 MT 14
PartiesSTATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jonathon MAINWARING, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

For Appellant: Penelope S. Strong, Chief Public Defender, Yellowstone County Public Defender's Office, Billings, Montana.

For Respondent: Hon. Mike McGrath, Montana Attorney General, Jennifer Anders, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Dennis Paxinos, Yellowstone County Attorney, Mark Murphy, Deputy County Attorney, Billings, Montana.

Justice PATRICIA O. COTTER delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 In 1999, at the age of sixteen, Jonathon Mainwaring (Mainwaring) was convicted of mitigated deliberate homicide and sentenced as an adult by the Valley County District Court to the Department of Corrections (DOC) for a term of 30 years, with 20 years suspended. Less than five years later, after he turned 21 and after the remainder of his sentence had been suspended, Mainwaring committed felony assault on a minor. Following the filing of assault charges in the Yellowstone County District Court, the State filed notice of its intent to designate Mainwaring as a "persistent felony offender" (PFO). Mainwaring moved to strike this notice but the Yellowstone County District Court denied his motion. The District Court subsequently sentenced Mainwaring as a PFO. Mainwaring appeals. We affirm.


¶ 2 A restatement of the issue is whether the Yellowstone County District Court erred in sentencing Mainwaring as a persistent felony offender predicated upon his 1999 felony conviction under § 41-5-206, MCA, of the Youth Court Act.


¶ 3 Mainwaring was initially charged in 1999 with deliberate homicide and aggravated assault. Shortly after the Information was filed in the Valley County District Court, the court held a hearing under § 41-5-206, MCA, to determine whether Mainwaring's case should remain in district court or be returned to youth court. The court determined the case would remain in district court and that Mainwaring would be tried as an adult. Counsel was appointed to represent Mainwaring and he entered a not guilty plea.

¶ 4 As part of a subsequent plea agreement, a copy of which is not available in the record of the current case, the State amended the Information to add the charge of mitigated deliberate homicide.1 Mainwaring entered a guilty plea to this charge. The Valley County court accepted the plea, ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set a sentencing hearing.

¶ 5 After approximately ten hours of evidence and argument was presented at the sentencing hearing, the Valley County District Court informed Mainwaring that it would not follow the sentencing recommendation set forth in the plea agreement. As a result of this decision, the court offered Mainwaring the opportunity to withdraw his plea. After consulting with counsel, Mainwaring declined to withdraw his plea. The Valley County court then proceeded to sentence Mainwaring under § 41-5-2503(1)(a), MCA, of the Criminally Convicted Youth Act (CCYA), which expressly provides that the district court "shall impose any sentence allowed by the statute that established the penalty for the offense of which the youth is convicted as if the youth were an adult and any conditions or restrictions allowed by statute."

¶ 6 In 2002, upon Mainwaring's motion and as provided for in § 41-5-2510, MCA, the Valley County District Court reviewed and then suspended the remainder of Mainwaring's original sentence upon a finding that Mainwaring had been "substantially rehabilitated." The court replaced the original sentence with various terms, conditions and restrictions. Approximately eighteen months later in October 2003, and just after turning 21 years old, Mainwaring violated the conditions of his suspended sentence by assaulting a young child. The Valley County District Court revoked his suspended sentence, and the State brought a felony "assault on a minor" charge against Mainwaring in the Yellowstone County District Court. The State also filed a timely notice to seek PFO designation for Mainwaring predicated upon his 1999 felony conviction. Mainwaring sought to strike the PFO designation but the Yellowstone County court denied his motion. The court thereafter designated him a PFO and sentenced him to 20 years at Montana State Prison (MSP), to run concurrently with his re-imposed Valley County District Court sentence. Mainwaring filed a timely notice of appeal.


¶ 7 We review criminal sentences for legality. When reviewing sentences for "legality," one thing we determine is whether the sentencing court had statutory authority to impose the sentence; in other words, whether the sentence falls within the parameters set by the applicable sentencing statutes. We review such questions of law de novo. State v. Montoya, 1999 MT 180, ¶ 15, 295 Mont. 288, ¶ 15, 983 P.2d 937, ¶ 15.


¶ 8 The primary question before this Court is whether a district court can properly designate an adult offender a PFO based upon a prior felony conviction that was obtained under § 41-5-206, MCA, (hereinafter referred to as "206 transfer" statute) of the Youth Court Act. Mainwaring contends, on constitutional grounds, that it cannot.

¶ 9 The following statutes are relevant to our analysis: Persistent Felony Offenders, §§ 46-18-501, et seq., Youth Court Act, §§ 41-5-101, et seq., and Criminally Convicted Youth Act, §§ 41-5-2501, et seq. We start by setting forth the pertinent provisions of these statutes, beginning with the definition of a PFO.

Section 46-18-501, MCA (2003)

A "persistent felony offender" is an offender who has previously been convicted of a felony and who is presently being sentenced for a second felony committed on a different occasion than the first. An offender is considered to have been previously convicted of a felony if:

(1) the previous felony conviction was for an offense committed in this state or any other jurisdiction for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of 1 year could have been imposed;

(2) less than 5 years have elapsed between the commission of the present offense and either:

(a) the previous felony conviction; or

(b) the offender's release on parole or otherwise from prison or other commitment imposed as a result of the previous felony conviction; and

(3) the offender has not been pardoned on the ground of innocence and the conviction has not been set aside in a postconviction hearing.

¶ 10 The relevant Youth Court Act statutes in effect when Mainwaring committed the 1999 homicide provide:

Section 41-5-103(39), MCA (1999)

"Youth" means an individual who is less than 18 years of age without regard to sex or emancipation.

Section 41-5-103(7), MCA (1999)

"Criminally convicted youth" means a youth who has been convicted in a district court pursuant to 41-5-206.

Section 41-5-206, MCA (1999), provides:

(1) The county attorney may, in the county attorney's discretion and in accordance with the procedure provided in 46-11-201, file with the district court a motion for leave to file an information in the district court if:

(a) the youth charged was 12 years of age or older at the time of the conduct alleged to be unlawful and the unlawful act would if it had been committed by an adult constitute:

. . . .

(ii) deliberate homicide as defined in 45-5-102;

(iii) mitigated deliberate homicide as defined in 45-5-103;

. . . .

(3) The district court shall grant leave to file the information if it appears from the affidavit or other evidence supplied by the county attorney that there is probable cause to believe that the youth has committed the alleged offense. Within 30 days after leave to file the information is granted, the district court shall conduct a hearing to determine whether the matter must be transferred back to the youth court. . . .

(4) The filing of an information in district court terminates the jurisdiction of the youth court over the youth with respect to the acts alleged in the information. . . .

. . . .

(6) If a youth is found guilty in district court of an offense enumerated in subsection (1), the court shall sentence the youth pursuant to 41-5-2503 and Titles 45 and 46. . . .

¶ 11 Lastly, the Criminally Convicted Youth Act, enacted in 1999, provides:

Section 41-5-2503, MCA:

(1) The district court, in sentencing a youth adjudicated in district court pursuant to 41-5-206, shall:

(a) impose any sentence allowed by the statute that established the penalty for the offense of which the youth is convicted as if the youth were an adult and any conditions or restrictions allowed by statute;

(b) retain jurisdiction over the case until the criminally convicted youth reaches the age of 21;

. . . .

(2) The district court shall review the criminally convicted youth's sentence pursuant to 41-5-2510 before the youth reaches the age of 21 if a hearing has not been requested under 41-5-2510.

Section 41-5-2510, MCA:

(1) When a youth has been convicted as an adult pursuant to the provisions of 41-5-206 . . ., the county attorney, defense attorney, or youth may, at any time before the youth reaches the age of 21, request a hearing to review the sentence imposed on the youth.

. . . .

(4) The sentencing court, after considering the criminal, social, psychological, and any other records of the youth; any evidence presented at the hearing; and any statements by the victim and by the parent or parents or guardian of the youth and any other advocates for the youth shall determine whether the criminally convicted youth has been substantially rehabilitated based upon a preponderance of the evidence.

(5) In the event that the sentencing court determines that the youth has been substantially rehabilitated, the court shall determine whether to:

(a) suspend all or part of the remaining portion of the sentence, impose conditions and restrictions...

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