Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In People v Sparber, 2008 NY Slip Op 03946 [NY 4/29/2008], the Court of Appeals finally considered the remedy when sentencing courts fail to pronounce their Post Release Supervision [PRS] terms in accordance with Criminal Procedure Law sections 380.20 and 380.40 and more than a year has past.

The Second Circuit, in considering this issue, held in Earley v Murray (451 F3d 71 [2d Cir 2006]), which held that DOCS's administrative addition of a PRS term not pronounced by Supreme Court violated federal "due process guarantees" (id. at 76 n 1) and should therefore be excised from the petitioner's sentence on a motion for a writ of habeas corpus. The New York Court of Appeals agreed with the Second Circuit that only a judge, and not prison or court clerks can impose PRS. However, the Court disagreed as to the remedy and as to the effect of the one year limit on th eabilty of prosecutors to seek resentencing set forth in CPL 440.40 [1]. The Court explained

It is indisputable that the relief that defendants request — expungement of their PRS terms — would permit them to serve a sentence not in compliance with the statute. But defendants say that this result is required because the People failed to seek proper resentencing within one year from the date of their convictions and did not properly preserve their objection to defendant's expungement remedy before the trial court (see CPL 440.40 [1])[FN6]. Defendants are incorrect. The sole remedy for a procedural error such as this is to vacate the sentence and remit for a resentencing hearing so that the trial judge can make the required pronouncement (see People v Sturgis, 69 NY2d 816, 817-818 [1987] ["[A] sentence [that] violates the mandate of CPL 380.20 . . . must be vacated and the case remitted to the trial court for resentencing"]; see also People v Stroman, 36 NY2d 939, 940-941 [1975] [violation of CPL 380.40 requires reversal and remitter for resentencing]).[FN7]

In all five of these cases, there exists no procedural bar to allowing the sentencing [*9]court to correct its PRS error [FN8]. It is obvious that at the time of each defendant's sentencing, Supreme Court intended to impose a sentence in compliance with the provisions of Penal Law §§ 70.00 (6) and 70.45 (1) — one that consisted of a determinate sentence and a period of PRS. No record evidence rebuts that presumption. Thus, the failure to pronounce the required sentence amounts only to a procedural error, akin to a misstatement or clerical error, which the sentencing court could easily remedy (see People v DeValle, 94 NY2d 870, 871 [2000]; People v Wright, 56 NY2d 613, 614 [1982]; People v Minaya, 54 NY2d 360, 364-365 [1981]).

Two footnotes to ponder. First note 6:
Defendants could, of course, move "[a]t any time" for resentencing (CPL 440.20 [1]). Their failure to exercise that right does not entitle them to the remedy requested here. Further, a court's authority to correct its own errors at resentencing is not subject to the one-year time limit imposed on the People by CPL 440.40 (1) (see People v Wright, 56 NY2d 613, 615 [1982] ["(I)t is clear that CPL 440.40 is intended only as a limitation on the People with reference to an 'invalid [sentence] as a matter of law' not imposed by mistake"]).

This note raises at least three questions. First, how could a defense attorney ethically move to have his client's sentence increased? Second, why would she do so? Third, in the divide between invalid sentences and mistaken sentence, how can the failure to be impose a mandatory PRS not be classified as an invalid sentence subject to the one year limitation?

Then comes note 7:
Defendants assert that CPL 450.90 precludes us from remitting for resentencing because the People, having prevailed below, are not entitled to that affirmative relief from this Court. Defendants are mistaken. Rather than affirmative relief to the People, this Court is merely giving a more limited form of relief to defendants than they seek.

So when the defendant argues that the PRS sentence was unlawfully imposed by prison or court officials other than a judges and that he is not and cannot be now subject to PRS, ithe imposition of PRS is just a limited form of the relief that defendant wanted. Which defendant ever asked for or wanted PRS?

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