So much for that. Last Friday, I blogged about the 8th District's decision in State v. Casalicchio, in which the court decided that the Supreme Court got it wrong in State v. Bezak when it held that a sentence imposed without properly advising the defendant of post-release controls was void. I've mentioned the problems of declaring that a sentence is void -- since a conviction requires a sentence, a void sentence arguably voids the conviction as well -- and I predicted that the Supreme Court would eventually come to its senses and rule that a failure to properly impose PRC simply made the sentence voidable. The Supreme Court had done something similar in regard to the sentencing statutes it held unconstitutional in State v. Foster; while Foster declared such sentences void, last year in State v. Payne the Court ruled decided that it had misspoken, and such sentences were merely voidable after all. I'd complimented the 8th District for being out front on the issue.
Well, maybe not. On Wednesday, in State v. Simpkins, the Supreme Court not only affirmed that failure to advise of PRC rendered the sentence void, but specifically rejected the claim that it was merely voidable.
The underlying rationale might have been to avoid the mess that PRC and the Court's decisions on it have created. Simpkins had been sentenced eight years earlier, and the trial court hadn't said anything at the time about PRC. When the state realized the problem, it used RC 2929.191 to bring Simpkins back for a resentencing hearing, at which PRC could be imposed. This happened five days before Simpkins sentence was up, and he was understandably upset at the prospect of having an additional five years of PRC tacked on in such belated fashion. Of course, if the sentence was merely voidable, then Simpkins could plausibly have argued that the state forfeited its right to complain about the lack of PRC by not appealing the original sentence. By holding the sentence void, the Court eliminated that argument: you can't waive your right to appeal a sentence if the sentence is a nullity.
The problem is that what happened to Simpkins when he was sentenced was a common occurrence back then: the statute was new, many judges believed it would be held unconstitutional. RC 2929.191 was enacted primarily to cure that problem. A decision in favor of Simpkins would have eviscerated the statute, and the Court obviously wasn't willing to foreclose the ability of the state to go back and properly impose PRC on defendants still in prison. Of course, had the state waited six days longer in Simpkins' case, there's the distinct possibility that he wouldn't have a conviction at all. And somewhere down the road, the Court's going to have to deal with that.
I'm going to be on vacation next week. We're going to the Phoenix area to spend a couple days going over the Apache Trail and Saltwater Canyon, then up to the Grand Canyon for a few more. Needless to say, I won't be taking time out from sightseeing to do any blogging. I'll be back a week from Monday with the Case Update and whatever else happens in the law between now and then. I'll leave you with this:
The Good News: The Los Angeles Police Department has a special unit to fix the doors of houses that the police break down in raids where they've gotten the wrong house. The Bad News: The Los Angeles Police Department needs a special unit to fix the doors of houses that the police break down in raids where they've gotten the wrong house.
See you in about a week.