State v. Ogden, 94-1485-CR

Decision Date14 March 1996
Docket NumberNo. 94-1485-CR,94-1485-CR
Citation199 Wis.2d 566,544 N.W.2d 574
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Andrea J. OGDEN a/k/a Andrea J. (Ogden) Parins, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner.
CourtWisconsin Supreme Court

Appeal from Circuit Court, La Crosse County; John J. Perlich, Judge.

For the defendant-appellant-petitioner there were briefs by Thomas M. Olson, and The Law Center, La Crosse and oral argument by Thomas M. Olson.

For the plaintiff-respondent the cause was argued by Paul Lundsten, Assistant Attorney General, with whom on the brief was James E. Doyle, Attorney General.

REVIEW of a decision of the Court of Appeals. Reversed and cause remanded.


Did the trial court commit an error of law when, instead of exercising discretion based upon individual factors, it applied a uniform sentencing policy of refusing "Huber" release to child care providers except when "absolutely essential?" We hold it did.

Andrea J. Ogden, a/k/a Andrea J. Parins, was arrested and charged with two counts of resisting or obstructing an officer in violation of Wis.Stat. § 946.41(1) (1993-94). She entered a guilty plea to both of these counts. The La Crosse County Circuit Court, the Honorable John J. Perlich, withheld sentence and ordered probation to run concurrently for two years on each count. As conditions of the probation, the court required Ogden to make a personal apology, perform 50 hours of community service, reimburse the public defender's office for attorney's fees, pay restitution, and serve 30 days in the county jail.

Ogden moved the trial court to delay the commencement of her jail term until the father, who is now also Ogden's husband, could finish school and be available to help care for the child. The court granted an extension of time to report to jail and allowed Ogden Huber privileges "for work, but not for child care." Shortly thereafter, Ogden filed another postconviction motion requesting the trial court to reconsider its refusal to permit her Huber release for child care. Judge Perlich denied her motion and stated that he never granted Huber privileges for child care unless it was "absolutely necessary." Ogden appealed and the court of appeals, in an unpublished opinion, affirmed the trial court's judgment. This court accepted Ogden's petition for review on the question of whether the trial court abused its discretion in not allowing Ogden Huber privileges for child care.

Trial courts have tremendous discretion in determining the conditions of probation. See Wis.Stat. § 973.09(1)(a) (1993-94). 1 Central to Ogden's appeal is the trial court's refusal to grant her Huber privileges pursuant to Wis.Stat. § 973.09(4) 2 during her jail term as a condition of her probation. Wisconsin Statute § 303.08(1) 3 sets forth a number of instances where Huber release may be allowed by the trial court. Family care is one of these. Wis.Stat. § 303.08(1)(c).

Ogden's appeal, therefore, essentially requires this court to review the sentencing decision of the trial court. It is axiomatic that an appellate court will not usually interfere with a trial court's discretion in this area. See Elias v. State, 93 Wis.2d 278, 282, 286 N.W.2d 559 (1980). In fact, this court has noted that a reviewing court should "start with the presumption that the trial court acted reasonably, and the defendant must show some unreasonable or unjustifiable basis in the record for the sentence complained of." Id. (citations omitted).

It is equally axiomatic, though, that one "unreasonable and unjustifiable basis" for a sentence is a trial judge's employment of a preconceived policy of sentencing that is "closed to individual mitigating factors." State v. Martin, 100 Wis.2d 326, 327, 302 N.W.2d 58 (Ct.App.1981); see also State v. J.E.B., 161 Wis.2d 655, 674, 469 N.W.2d 192 (Ct.App.1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 940, 112 S.Ct. 1484, 117 L.Ed.2d 626 (1992). Such inflexibility, which "bespeaks a made-up mind," is unacceptable. State v. Halbert, 147 Wis.2d 123, 128, 432 N.W.2d 633 (Ct.App.1988); see also United States v. Foss, 501 F.2d 522, 527 (1st Cir.1974). This court has repeatedly held that the imposition of a criminal sentence must at the very least be based on "the gravity of the offense, the character of the offender and the need for the protection of the public." Anderson v. State 76 Wis.2d 361, 364, 251 N.W.2d 768 (1977); see also Harris v. State, 75 Wis.2d 513, 519, 250 N.W.2d 7 (1977); Rosado v. State, 70 Wis.2d 280, 291, 234 N.W.2d 69 (1975); McCleary v. State, 49 Wis.2d 263, 274-276, 182 N.W.2d 512 (1971). This methodology does not allow for a sentence which fits the crime, but not the criminal. See McCleary, 49 Wis.2d at 271, 182 N.W.2d 512.

The trial court in this case employed the very type of mechanistic sentencing approach disfavored by our case law. At one point the court stated, "[t]here are certain procedures and policies that have to be established as to allow some uniformity. If I make an exception for her, then any person in the jail can also request that same exception." Further, it impliedly disregarded the particular facts of Ogden's situation by asserting: "My reason has always been I do not allow [Huber privileges for] normal child care because, number one, it's all too often abused. Somebody becomes real interested in a child only after they have been sentenced to jail and use it only as a means of getting out of jail...." In fact, the judge made it clear that he would only grant Huber privileges for child care if it was absolutely essential.

The record indicates that the trial court had decided not to grant Huber release for family care before Ogden made her request. Based upon this preconceived sentencing policy, it summarily denied her motion. The trial court clearly did not take into account the specific circumstances of Ogden's situation. This type of approach does not constitute an exercise of discretion, but is instead an abdication of the trial court's responsibility to look at the facts in each case independently before issuing a sentence.

Furthermore, in addition to being violative of the criminal jurisprudence of this state, the trial court's predetermined conclusion regarding Huber release is not supported by the language of the statute. As indicated earlier, Wis.Stat. § 303.08(1) allows Huber release for a number of purposes including employment and/or family care. It does not expressly or impliedly state that securing Huber release for family care should be any more or less difficult than securing release for employment purposes. A judge's decision whether to grant Huber privileges should not be predetermined by which subsection of the statute happens to be applicable to the offender in question. Instead, a court should look at the individual circumstances of the case before it and then base its determination of whether Huber release is appropriate on those circumstances.

This decision does not limit a trial court's sentencing discretion. It simply applies principles which have been embodied in this state's criminal law for decades. See, e.g., McCleary, 49 Wis.2d at 274-276, 182 N.W.2d 512. We do not hold that a trial judge is prohibited from entertaining general predispositions, based upon his or her criminal sentencing experience, regarding when a certain type of sentence is appropriate. We do hold, however, that a judge's predispositions must never be so specific or rigid so as to ignore the particular circumstances of the individual offender upon whom he or she is passing judgment.

Ogden asserts that her situation, where the father would have had to quit his job in order to provide child care, is the type in which the court should have allowed Huber release. However, the trial court made no definite findings of fact regarding whether there were friends or family who could care for the child during Ogden's prison term or if there was some other possible alternative to the father quitting his job. 4 Based upon the...

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  • State v. Dodson
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    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • January 26, 2022 not "so specific or rigid" that it "ignore[s] the particular circumstances of the individual offender." State v. Ogden, 199 Wis. 2d 566, 573, 544 N.W.2d 574 (1996). ¶10 Under the actual-reliance prong, we review the sentencing transcript as a whole and assess any allegedly improper comme......
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    ...for a sentencing court to have a preconceived sentencing policy "closed to individual mitigating factors." State v. Ogden, 199 Wis.2d 566, 571, 544 N.W.2d 574 (1996). A prohibited sentencing policy exists, however, only where the court's predispositions are "specific or rigid so as to ignor......
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