2015 Opinion No. 27
Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Michael R. McLaughlin, District Judge. Hon. Carolyn Minder, Magistrate Judge.
The judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney for appellant. Mark W. Olson argued.
Ada County Public Defender's Office, Boise, attorneys for respondent. Dylan J. Orton argued.
W. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, Justices EISMANN, J. JONES, and Justice pro tem KIDWELL, CONCUR.
W. JONES, Justice
I. Nature of the Case
This case presents an issue of statutory interpretation. Idaho Code section 20-621 authorizes commutation of county jail sentences for good behavior, making county inmates with good records while incarcerated eligible for five (5) days off for each and every month of their sentence. A prisoner's eligibility, however, is conditioned upon receiving a recommendation from the supervising county sheriff. The primary issue presented in this case is whether the statute vests the magistrate court with the discretion to reject a recommendation from a sheriff.
II. Factual and Procedural Background
In December 2011, Corey Thiel (Thiel) was charged by the State of Idaho (State) with felony domestic battery. Pursuant to an agreement with the State, Thiel pled guilty to an amended charge of misdemeanor domestic battery and was placed on supervised probation. Approximately one week after entry of this guilty plea, on February 29, 2012, Thiel was charged with a misdemeanor violation of a no-contact order for an incident that occurred while the battery charge was pending. On March 13, 2012, Thiel pled guilty to violating the no-contact order, and
the magistrate court imposed suspended jail time and two years of unsupervised probation, while crediting time served. Under the terms of his probation, Thiel was required to comply with the terms of supervised probation established in the underlying battery case.
Less than two months thereafter, on May 2, 2012, the State moved for the court to issue a bench warrant for Thiel's arrest based on probation violations. At a June 15, 2012 hearing on the State's motion, Thiel admitted the violations, specifically regarding his failure to appear for drug testing and for providing a diluted drug test. The court reinstated Thiel on probation. Approximately four months thereafter, the State moved for a second set of probation violations, alleging that Thiel failed to maintain contact with his assigned probation officer and also failed to provide documentation that he had completed the required domestic violence treatment. At a March 15, 2013 hearing on the State's motion, Thiel admitted the violations. The court revoked Thiel's probation and imposed his original sentence of 356 days, with a credit of 67 days. Thiel was taken into custody and began serving his sentence in the Ada County Jail.
On October 15, 2013, the Ada County Sheriff's Office submitted a letter to the magistrate court recommending that Thiel be granted an early release for good behavior pursuant to Idaho Code section 20-621. Specifically, the Sheriff cited the statute and wrote, " While an inmate in the Ada County Jail, [Thiel] had a good record and performed all assigned tasks in an orderly and peaceable manner." Given this good behavior, the Sheriff recommended 55 days of early release time, or 5 days for each of the approximately 11 months of Thiel's sentence. Under this calculation, Thiel's release date would be November 4, 2013. The bottom of the letter included a signature caption for the magistrate judge, designed to facilitate the court's acceptance of the recommendation. On October 23, 2013, however, the magistrate court denied the Sheriff's request. In the caption provided the court stated, " I do not agree to any release. This decision will be purely up to the [Ada County Sheriff's Office], but I will not [illegible] permission."
On November 14, 2013, Thiel separately moved for his " immediate release" based on the Sheriff's letter. On November 15, 2013, the magistrate court denied this motion, writing, " I will not sign an order releasing an untreated, violent offender into the community. The Ada County Sheriff, if he believes he has the authority to do so, may release regardless of my [expressed] concerns for safety." Thiel appealed this denial of his motion for release to the district court.
In its intermediate appellate capacity, and on an expedited basis, the district court reversed the magistrate court's decision, holding that where a county sheriff recommends an inmate be released pursuant to Idaho Code section 20-621, the magistrate court is required to follow the recommendation and release the inmate. The ...