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State of Idaho v. Dean Clay Miller

November 18, 2011


Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. David C. Nye, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burdick, Chief Justice

2011 Opinion No. 118

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

District court ruling on subject matter jurisdiction for persistent violator and abuse of discretion in sentencing, affirmed.

This appeal arises from Dean Clay Miller, Jr.'s conviction for burglary, assault with intent to commit robbery, possession of methamphetamine, and being a persistent violator. This case is primarily concerned with two issues: (1) whether a persistent violator enhancement must be alleged in the information to give a court subject matter jurisdiction; and (2) whether the defendant's sentence was excessive and constituted an abuse of discretion.

Miller pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance, burglary, and assault with the intent to commit robbery. He also pled guilty to being a persistent violator. Miller argues that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the State did not allege the persistent violator enhancement in the information. He also argues that if the court did have subject matter jurisdiction, the sentence was excessive in light of his mental health condition and other mitigating factors. We hold that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to sentence

Miller. We also hold that the district court acted consistent with I.C. § 19-2523 and I.C § 19- 2521 and did not abuse its discretion when sentencing Miller.


Miller was arrested on September 24, 2007, in Pocatello, Idaho, for assault, burglary with the intent to commit robbery, and possession of methamphetamine. Miller had been on a three- week methamphetamine binge, and said he was fleeing pursuers. Miller claimed he had been running a long time and entered the victims' home in an attempt to escape. The home belonged to a family consisting of the parents and three children, one of whom was an infant. He entered their home through an unlocked side door in the garage, found a shotgun, and entered the bedroom where the parents were sleeping with the baby. Also in the home were the victims' two other children. The parents awoke, finding Miller there, wearing a mask and gloves and pointing the shotgun at them. He told them he was going to wait until morning when the banks opened, and force them to withdraw all of their money. At one point, Miller looked out the window, and the father was able to strike Miller in the head with the shotgun. This distracted Miller long enough for the mother and baby to escape. The father also ran outside and told his neighbor to get his guns and come help. His neighbor grabbed his .45 pistol, and the two approached the house, where they noticed that Miller had entered the garage. The neighbor entered and confronted Miller, and there was a short standoff. The father told his neighbor not to shoot Miller because the shotgun was unloaded. Miller dropped the shotgun and then held a knife up to his throat and wrist, threatening to kill himself. Shortly thereafter, the police arrived and subdued Miller. Only then was the father able to re-enter his home and get to his other two children. When the police searched Miller they found methamphetamine in his pocket.

The original charges filed against Miller were for burglary, kidnapping in the first degree, assault with intent to commit robbery accompanied by a firearms enhancement, and possession of a controlled substance. The State was granted leave to amend the information to include a persistent violator enhancement, though no amendment was ever filed. However, the state did file a Notice to Defendant to Seek Persistent Violator Enhancement ("Notice to Defendant"). Miller subsequently pled guilty to the burglary, assault and possession charges, along with being a persistent violator. The other charges were dismissed. When Miller pled guilty to being a persistent violator, the district court and the prosecutor referred to part III of the Information. There was never a part III filed, but presumably they were referring to the Notice to Defendant.

Miller has a history of psychological problems, so the court ordered a psychological evaluation pursuant to I.C. § 19-2524. That evaluation stated that Miller suffered from anxiety and depression, and that he met the criteria for "Major Depression and Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified with Antisocial Traits and Substance Abuse." That evaluation also noted that Miller approached the psychological tests "in an effort to emphasize his psychological problems." The symptoms of these disorders had been compounded by his drug use, but he was prescribed numerous psychotropic medications throughout his life.

Based on his admission that he was a persistent violator, Miller received enhanced sentences consisting of concurrent indeterminate life terms, with twenty-eight years fixed, for burglary and assault with intent to commit robbery. Miller was sentenced to a concurrent seven year fixed term for possession of methamphetamine.

Miller appealed on two grounds: first, that the district court did not have jurisdiction to sentence him as a persistent violator because the enhancement was not included in the information; and second, that the sentence was excessive and constituted an abuse of discretion. The Court of Appeals heard the case and issued a decision on June 14, 2010. It held that the district court had jurisdiction to sentence Miller as a persistent violator but that the sentence for the burglary and assault charges was excessive and constituted an abuse of discretion. It upheld the sentence of seven years for the possession charge and reduced his sentence to a term of fifteen years determinate with indeterminate life for the burglary and assault charges. This Court granted the State's petition for review.


When reviewing a decision by the Court of Appeals, this Court directly reviews the decision of the district court, while giving serious consideration to the intermediate appellate decision. State v. Arthur, 145 Idaho 219, 221-22, 177 P.3d 966, 968-69 (2008).

Whether a court lacks jurisdiction is a question of law that can be raised at any time and over which appellate courts exercise free review. State v. Jones, 140 Idaho 755, 757, 101 P.3d 699, 701 (2004). Whether an ...

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