2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 610
Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Jerome County. Hon. John K. Butler, District Judge.
Judgment of conviction and concurrent fixed life sentences for one count of aggravated battery upon a peace officer with a deadly weapon and persistent violator enhancement, and one count of aggravated assault upon a peace officer, with a persistent violator enhancement, affirmed; order denying I.C.R. 35 motion for reduction of sentences.
Stephen D. Thompson, Ketchum, for appellant.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Jessica M. Lorello, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
Before GUTIERREZ, Chief Judge; LANSING, Judge; and MELANSON, Judge.
Christopher Mark Taylor pled guilty to one count of aggravated battery upon a peace officer, I.C. §§ 18-903, 18-907 and 18-915, enhanced for being a persistent violator, I.C. § 19-2514, and also enhanced for the use of a deadly weapon, I.C. § 19-2520. Taylor also entered an Alford plea to one count of aggravated battery upon a peace officer, I.C. §§ 18-901, 18-905 and 18-915, enhanced for being a persistent violator, I.C. § 19-2514. The district court sentenced Taylor to concurrent fixed life terms. Taylor filed an I.C.R. 35 motion for reduction of his sentences, which the district court denied. Taylor appeals arguing that the concurrent life sentences are excessive.
An appellate review of a sentence is based on an abuse of discretion standard. State v. Burdett, 134 Idaho 271, 276, 1 P.3d 299, 304 (Ct. App. 2000). Where a sentence is not illegal, the appellant has the burden to show that it is unreasonable and, thus, a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Brown, 121 Idaho 385, 393, 825 P.2d 482, 490 (1992). A sentence may represent such an abuse of discretion if it is shown to be unreasonable upon the facts of the case. State v. Nice, 103 Idaho 89, 90, 645 P.2d 323, 324 (1982). A sentence of confinement is reasonable if it appears at the time of sentencing that confinement is necessary "to accomplish the primary objective of protecting society and to achieve any or all of the related goals of deterrence, rehabilitation or retribution applicable to a given case." State v. Toohill, 103 Idaho 565, 568, 650 P.2d 707, 710 (Ct. App. 1982). Where an appellant contends that the sentencing court imposed an excessively harsh sentence, we conduct an independent review of the record, having regard for the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, and the protection of the public interest. State v. Reinke, 103 Idaho 771, 772, 653 P.2d 1183, 1184 (Ct. App. 1982). When reviewing the length of a sentence, we consider the defendant's entire sentence. State v. Oliver, 144 Idaho 722, 726, 170 P.3d 387, 391 (2007).
The question before this Court is not what sentence it would have imposed but, rather, whether the district court abused its discretion. State v. Stevens, 146 Idaho 139, 148-49, 191 P.3d 217, 226-27 (2008). Where reasonable minds might differ, the discretion vested in the trial court will be respected and this Court will not supplant the views of the trial court with its own. State v. Windom, 150 Idaho 873, 875, 253 P.3d 310, 312 (2011).
A fixed life sentence requires a high degree of certainty that the perpetrator could never be safely released back into society or that the nature of the offense requires that the individual spend the rest of his or her life behind bars. Windom, 150 Idaho at 876, 253 P.3d at 313. See also State v. Li, 131 Idaho 126, 129, 952 P.2d 1262, 1265 (Ct. App. 1998); State v. Eubank, 114 Idaho 635, 638, 759 P.2d 926, 929 (Ct. App. 1988).
Taylor contends that his sentences are excessive. Because of the persistent violator enhancements, the maximum sentences the district court could have imposed were life in prison on both counts. The sentences imposed did not exceed the maximum. Therefore, Taylor must show that the sentences were unreasonable under any reasonable view of the facts. See Windom, 150 Idaho at 875, 253 P.3d at 312. Taylor's crimes are summarized as follows: An officer attempted a traffic stop on a car driven by Taylor. Taylor attempted to elude the officer. A chase ensued with Taylor reaching a speed of 100 mph at times. At one point Taylor briefly stopped his vehicle and fired a shotgun at the officer. The officer was hit but returned fire and continued the pursuit after Taylor again attempted to flee. Another officer tried to block Taylor's path but Taylor turned his vehicle toward the officer's vehicle, resulting in the aggravated assault charge. Ultimately, Taylor crashed his car and was captured. The officer who was wounded by the shotgun is now blind in his left eye. When Taylor committed these crimes he was a three-time convicted felon and was on probation. In addition to the prior felonies (possession of a controlled substance, eluding a peace officer and grand theft by possession of stolen property), Taylor's record includes numerous misdemeanor convictions including driving under the influence, contempt, disturbing the peace, possession of drug paraphernalia, inattentive driving, and fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer.
At sentencing, the district court specifically recognized that the sentencing decision was committed to its discretion and that it was required to act within the bounds of that discretion through an exercise of reason. The district court discussed the goals of sentencing, as well as the factors set forth in I.C. § 19-2521 and the standard set forth in Windom for imposition ...