State v. Scott, No. 30692.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtSTARCHER, Chief Justice.
Citation585 S.E.2d 1,214 W.Va. 1
Decision Date07 May 2003
Docket NumberNo. 30692.
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Appellee, v. Ryan Farnsworth SCOTT, Defendant Below, Appellant.

585 S.E.2d 1
214 W.Va.
1

STATE of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Appellee,
v.
Ryan Farnsworth SCOTT, Defendant Below, Appellant

No. 30692.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted April 15, 2003.

Decided May 7, 2003.


214 W.Va. 2
Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., Attorney General, Steven R. Compton, Assistant Attorney General, Charleston, for Appellee

214 W.Va. 3
Joseph T. Santer, Esq., Santer and Santer, Parkersburg, for Appellant

STARCHER, Chief Justice.

In this appeal from the Circuit Court of Wood County, a young criminal defendant contends that he was improperly sentenced on two criminal convictions. The young defendant contends that the circuit court did not properly give him credit for the days he spent in pre-sentencing custody. The young defendant argues that the circuit court's sentencing order improperly deprived the defendant of an early appearance before the Parole Board.

As set forth below, we agree and reverse the circuit court's sentencing order.1

I.

Facts & Background

On February 28, 1998, 18-year-old appellant Ryan F. Scott cashed a check for $100.00 at a convenience store in Wood County, West Virginia. The check was one of several blank, personal checks stolen from Deborah K. Hansen. The clerk cashing the check recognized the appellant, and later gave a statement to the police.

A police officer presented evidence to a magistrate that the appellant had forged Ms. Hansen's signature on the stolen check, and the magistrate issued a warrant for the appellant's arrest on the felony charge of uttering.2 The police arrested the appellant on April 24, 1998, and a magistrate required the appellant to post a $5,000.00 bond before being released from custody. The appellant spent 14 days in jail before he was able to raise the funds to post the bond, and appears to have been released on May 8, 1998.

While the record is unclear as to the exact date, at some point in May 1998 the appellant engaged in a conspiracy with two other individuals to deliver marijuana to a prisoner in the local jail. Unbeknownst to the appellant, the local police drug task force discovered the marijuana delivery. In August 1998, the grand jury met, heard evidence from the police and issued an indictment charging the appellant with four felonies: illegally transporting a controlled substance onto the grounds of a jail;3 conspiracy to transport a controlled substance onto the grounds of a jail;4 delivering a controlled substance to a jail inmate;5 and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance to a jail inmate.

214 W.Va. 4
The appellant was once again arrested, and spent another two days in the local jail before posting a $10,000.00 bond. The appellant appeared before the circuit judge on the indictment and pled not guilty to the four marijuana-related charges. The circuit judge then scheduled the appellant's trial for January 5, 1999

Instead of having a trial, after meetings with his attorney and the prosecutor, the appellant agreed to plead guilty to some of the charges pending against him. The appellant agreed to plead guilty to uttering,6 and agreed to plead guilty to transporting a controlled substance onto the grounds of a jail. In response, the prosecuting attorney agreed to dismiss the remaining three charges involving the marijuana.

The circuit judge accepted the appellant's guilty pleas in open court, and in March 1999 the appellant was taken into custody, first by the local jail, and later by the Division of Corrections ("DOC") for diagnostic testing to determine the proper sentence for the appellant's crimes. After receiving a diagnostic report from the DOC, in September 1999 the circuit judge held a hearing and decided to defer sentencing the appellant to prison.

Under the law, the circuit judge could have sentenced the appellant to a prison term of one to ten years for uttering,7 and one to five years for transporting the controlled substance into the jail.8 Alternatively, because the appellant was under the age of 23, the circuit judge had the option of sending the appellant to a rehabilitation program at the "young adult offender center" managed by the DOC.9 The circuit judge chose the latter option.

The appellant was placed into the young adult offender rehabilitation program at the Anthony Correctional Center near White Sulphur Springs. The appellant performed well in this program, graduating at the top of his class and receiving the honor of valedictorian. He was released from custody and returned home to Wood County on April 26, 2000. The circuit judge then entered an order placing the appellant on probation for a

214 W.Va. 5
term of two years, and certain conditions were imposed.

By the end of summer 2000, the record indicates that the appellant was struggling with the conditions of his probation. For example, drug tests performed by the probation officer showed the appellant was using marijuana; when questioned, the appellant lied and denied using marijuana. The appellant also changed his residence without the permission of his probation officer, and started missing appointments with his probation officer. Finally, in August 2000, the appellant allegedly stole a video cassette recorder and a gasoline powered weed trimmer from his mother.

Because of these repeated violations by the appellant of the conditions of his probation, the appellant's probation officer filed a motion with the circuit judge to revoke the appellant's probation. The appellant was arrested and placed in jail, and subsequently admitted to the circuit judge that he had violated the terms and conditions of his probation. By this time, the appellant had spent a total of 567 days in incarceration.

On February 14, 2001, the circuit judge refused a request by the appellant that he again be released on probation. Instead, the circuit judge entered an order imposing a sentence of one to ten years in the West Virginia Penitentiary for the offense of uttering, and one to five years for the offense of transporting a controlled substance onto the grounds of a jail. The circuit judge also ordered that the two sentences were to run consecutively, back-to-back (as opposed to concurrently, or at the same time)—a total sentence of two-to-fifteen years.

In the sentencing order, the circuit judge gave the appellant credit for the 567 days previously spent in the local jail or the DOC's custody. However, the circuit judge split the credit for those days unevenly between the two sentences. The appellant was given 565 days credit towards the uttering charge, and only two days credit towards the transporting charge.

The appellant now appeals the circuit judge's sentencing order.

II.

Standard of Review

At the outset, we establish a "standard of review" to guide our deliberations regarding the parties' arguments. The parties' arguments ask us to interpret a section of the Youthful Offender Act, W.Va.Code, 25-4-6 [2001], so we begin by setting forth our rules for statutory interpretation.

At issue is a "penal" statute, a law that imposes "a penalty, fine or punishment for certain offenses of a public nature or wrongs committed against the state." Black's Law Dictionary 1020 (5th Ed.1979). This Court has repeatedly stated that penal statutes are construed against the State and in favor of a defendant. For example, in Syllabus Point 3 of State ex rel. Carson v. Wood, 154 W.Va. 397, 175 S.E.2d 482 (1970), we stated that "[p]enal statutes must be strictly construed against the State and in favor of the defendant." See also, Syllabus Point 1, Myers v. Murensky, 162 W.Va. 5, 245 S.E.2d 920 (1978) ("Ambiguous penal statutes must be strictly construed against the State and in favor of the defendant."); Syllabus Point 2, State v. Riley, 158 W.Va. 823, 215 S.E.2d 460 (1975) ("Penal statutes are strictly construed against the state and favorably for the defendant."). "It is a general rule that a penal statute will not be extended by construction, but must be limited to cases clearly within its language and spirit." Syllabus Point 1, State v. Larkin, 107 W.Va. 580, 149 S.E. 667 (1929).

With these standards in mind, we consider the parties' arguments.

III.

Discussion

The parties dispute whether and how, under W.Va.Code, 25-4-6 [2001], a circuit judge must apply credit for a young defendant's prior time served, when the circuit judge is sentencing the defendant to consecutive terms in prison after the defendant successfully completed a program of rehabilitation at a young adult offender center, was placed on probation, and such probation is being revoked. The appellant argues the credit must

214 W.Va. 6
be applied by the circuit judge to reduce the defendant's minimum sentence that must be served before the defendant is eligible for parole; the State argues the credit must be applied by the Parole Board to reduce the defendant's maximum sentence, the total period spent in prison.

We begin by fully setting out the parties' arguments (arguments that are, frankly, comparable to a convoluted mathematics word problem). The appellant contends that the circuit judge erred by crediting virtually all of the appellant's time spent in incarceration against the appellant's uttering charge. The appellant argues that this division of time violates the Youthful Offender Act, W.Va.Code, 25-4-1 to -12, which was written by the Legislature so that young adult offenders would not be penalized for participating in a young adult rehabilitation program. The Act, specifically W.Va.Code, 25-4-6, states that participants in a young adult offender program are eligible for probation upon completing the program. However, W.Va.Code, 25-4-6 also states:

In the event the offender's probation is subsequently revoked, the judge shall impose the sentence the young adult offender would have originally received had the offender not been committed to the center and subsequently placed on probation. The court shall, however, give the offender credit on his or her
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10 practice notes
  • State Va. v. Eilola, No. 35140.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 18, 2010
    ...defendant had not been committed to a young adult offender center and subsequently placed on probation.” Syllabus Point 6, State v. Scott, 214 W.Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003). 6. “Consistent with our decision in Echard v. Holland, 177 W.Va. 138, 351 S.E.2d 51 (1986), when a trial court awards ......
  • State Of West Va. v. Eilola, No. 35140
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 10, 2010
    ...defendant had not been committed to a young adult offender center and subsequently placed on probation.” Syllabus Point 6, State v. Scott, 214 W. Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003). 6. “Consistent with our decision in Echard v. Holland, 177 W. Va. 138, 351 S.E.2d 51 (1986), when a trial court award......
  • State v. Middleton, No. 33048.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 29, 2006
    ...credited against the aggregated maximum term of the consecutive sentences. To the extent that language in the decision of State v. Scott, 214 W. Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003), suggests a different allocation of presentence credit to consecutive sentences, it is Kathleen T. Pettigrew, Charlesto......
  • State ex rel. McCabe v. Seifert, No. 32976.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 29, 2006
    ...credited against the aggregated maximum term of the consecutive sentences. To the extent that language in the decision of State v. Scott, 214 W.Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003), suggests a different allocation of presentence credit to consecutive sentences, it is 8. An exception to the above prin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • State Va. v. Eilola, No. 35140.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 18, 2010
    ...defendant had not been committed to a young adult offender center and subsequently placed on probation.” Syllabus Point 6, State v. Scott, 214 W.Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003). 6. “Consistent with our decision in Echard v. Holland, 177 W.Va. 138, 351 S.E.2d 51 (1986), when a trial court awards ......
  • State Of West Va. v. Eilola, No. 35140
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 10, 2010
    ...defendant had not been committed to a young adult offender center and subsequently placed on probation.” Syllabus Point 6, State v. Scott, 214 W. Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003). 6. “Consistent with our decision in Echard v. Holland, 177 W. Va. 138, 351 S.E.2d 51 (1986), when a trial court award......
  • State v. Middleton, No. 33048.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 29, 2006
    ...credited against the aggregated maximum term of the consecutive sentences. To the extent that language in the decision of State v. Scott, 214 W. Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003), suggests a different allocation of presentence credit to consecutive sentences, it is Kathleen T. Pettigrew, Charlesto......
  • State ex rel. McCabe v. Seifert, No. 32976.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 29, 2006
    ...credited against the aggregated maximum term of the consecutive sentences. To the extent that language in the decision of State v. Scott, 214 W.Va. 1, 585 S.E.2d 1 (2003), suggests a different allocation of presentence credit to consecutive sentences, it is 8. An exception to the above prin......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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