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State v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Idaho

February 9, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
SEAN ANTHONY THOMAS, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 13

         Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Bradly S. Ford, District Judge.

         Order denying I.C.R. 35 motion for reduction of sentence, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Maya P. Waldron, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Mark W. Olson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          MELANSON, Judge

         Sean Anthony Thomas appeals from the district court's order denying Thomas's I.C.R. 35 motion for reduction of sentence. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         Thomas pled guilty to lewd conduct for sexually abusing his daughter, who was under the age of sixteen. I.C. § 18-1508. On June 2, 2014, the district court sentenced Thomas to a unified term of fifteen years, with a minimum period of confinement of five years, but retained jurisdiction for a period of 365 days. The district court filed the judgment of conviction ten days later. On June 18, 2015, the district court entered an order confirming that Thomas's period of retained jurisdiction had automatically expired by operation of law because more than 365 days had elapsed since Thomas's sentence had been imposed. Thomas filed a motion requesting appointment of counsel for the purpose of pursuing relief under Rule 35, which the district court granted. On October 8, 2015, Thomas filed his Rule 35(b) motion for reduction of sentence. Following a hearing, the district court denied Thomas's Rule 35(b) motion finding that it had been filed more than 120 days after Thomas's period of retained jurisdiction expired. Thomas appeals.

         A motion for reduction of sentence under Rule 35 is essentially a plea for leniency, addressed to the sound discretion of the court. State v. Knighton, 143 Idaho 318, 319, 144 P.3d 23, 24 (2006); State v. Allbee, 115 Idaho 845, 846, 771 P.2d 66, 67 (Ct. App. 1989). The filing limitations provided by Rule 35 are a jurisdictional limit on the authority of the court to consider the motion and, unless filed within the period, a district court lacks jurisdiction to grant any relief. State v. Sutton, 113 Idaho 832, 833, 748 P.2d 416, 417 (Ct. App. 1987).

         Thomas argues the district court erred in finding that Thomas's Rule 35 motion for reduction of sentence was untimely. Specifically, Thomas contends that the district court erroneously calculated the date on which Thomas's period of retained jurisdiction expired by using the date of the pronouncement of sentence to calculate the timeliness of the Rule 35 motion. In support, Thomas asserts that the relevant statute, I.C. § 19-2601(4), is ambiguous and that legislative history and the statute's underlying purpose show that a period of retained jurisdiction runs from the filing of the written judgment of conviction and not from the date of the pronouncement of sentence. Consequently, Thomas argues that, when properly calculated from the judgment of conviction filing date, his period of retained jurisdiction expired 118 days prior to his filing the Rule 35(b) motion, thus rendering his motion timely. Conversely, the State argues the plain language of Rule 35(b) and I.C. § 19-2601(4) provide that a period of retained jurisdiction expires 365 days after the district court pronounces sentence, not 365 days after a sentencing court subsequently enters the judgment of conviction. Consequently, the State contends the district court correctly found that Thomas's period of retained jurisdiction automatically expired on June 2, 2015, and that Thomas's Rule 35(b) motion, filed 128 days later, was untimely.

         The relevant provisions at issue on appeal are I.C.R. 35(b) and I.C. § 19-2601(4). Idaho Criminal Rule 35(b) provides that a district court has discretion to consider and act upon a motion filed within 120 days after the filing of a judgment of conviction or within 120 days after the court releases retained jurisdiction. Retained jurisdiction automatically terminates upon the expiration of the defined period specified in I.C. § 19-2601(4). See State v. Taylor, 142 Idaho 30, 31, 121 P.3d 961, 962 (2005); State v. Ward, 150 Idaho 446, 448, 247 P.3d 673, 675 (Ct. App. 2010). As such, Thomas's Rule 35(b) motion was required to be filed within 120 days of the date on which his period of retained jurisdiction automatically expired.

         Generally, a sentencing court's jurisdiction ends once the sentencing court orders a defendant into the custody of the Board of Correction. State v. Williams, 126 Idaho 39, 43, 878 P.2d 213, 217 (Ct. App. 1994). However, I.C. § 19-2601(4) creates an exception to the general rule. Specifically, I.C. § 19-2601(4) provides, in relevant part:

Whenever any person shall have been convicted, or enter a plea of guilty, in any district court of the state of Idaho, of or to any crime against the laws of the state, except those of ...

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