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Richardson v. United States

July 12, 2007

WILLIAM RICHARDSON, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F-288-02) (Hon. Wendell P. Gardner, Jr., Trial Judge).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ruiz, Associate Judge

Argued December 9, 2003

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, and RUIZ and GLICKMAN, Associate Judges.

This appeal presents us with the task of interpreting the trial court's authority to impose split sentences and supervised release within the context of the determinate sentencing regime adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia in 2000, the Truth in Sentencing Amendment Act of 1998, D.C. Law 12-165, D.C. Code § 24-403.01(2001), pursuant to congressional direction in the National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Improvement Act of 1997. We hold that the law does not permit concurrent terms of probation and supervised release and that, when imposing a split sentence, the trial court must suspend the term of supervised release in its entirety. We therefore remand the case so that the trial court can restructure appellant's sentence in accordance with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

After appellant pled guilty to one count of escape in violation of D.C. Code § 22-2601 (2001), the trial court imposed a sentence of three years of incarceration, with all but one year suspended, to be followed by two years of supervised probation, and three years of mandated supervised release, with the periods of probation and supervised release to run concurrently. During the sentencing hearing, appellant asked the trial court to suspend the term of supervised release given that the sentence already included a term of probation. In support of his request, appellant asserted that concurrent terms of probation and supervised release could lead to conflict between the court (which supervises probation) and the U.S. Parole Commission (which supervises D.C. offenders on supervised release pursuant to D.C. Code § 24-403.01 (b)(6)).*fn2 In addition, appellant suggested that if supervised release was not suspended, he could serve more time in prison than the sentencing court intended, because he could be subject to revocation of supervised release by the Parole Commission as well as revocation of probation by the court. The trial court was of the view that it did not have authority to suspend the period of supervised release required by statute, and that probation was not in lieu of the mandatory term of supervised release. As a result, the trial court concluded that pursuant to D.C. Code § 24-403.01 (b)(5), it was required to sentence appellant to concurrent terms of supervised release and probation.

II. DISCUSSION

Because appellant poses a question of statutory interpretation, our review is de novo. See District of Columbia v. Morrissey, 668 A.2d 792, 795-96 (D.C. 1995). We begin with the plain language of the statute, see Peoples Drug Stores, Inc. v. District of Columbia, 470 A.2d 751, 753 (D.C. 1983), but if we find individual sections to be capable of more than one reading, our task is to search for an interpretation that makes sense of the statute and related laws as a whole. See Carey v. Crane Serv. Co., 457 A.2d 1102, 1108 (D.C. 1983). Lastly, we turn to legislative history to ensure that our interpretation is consistent with legislative intent. See Peoples Drug Stores, Inc., 470 A.2d at 754.

A. The D.C. Truth In Sentencing Act

As the question before us concerns application of certain provisions of the D.C. Truth in Sentencing Act, we think it useful to review the process that led to its enactment. In the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997 ("Revitalization Act"), Congress established the District of Columbia Truth in Sentencing Commission ("TISC") "as an independent agency of the District of Columbia." Revitalization Act, Pub. L. No. 105-33, § 11211, 111 Stat. 712, 740-41 (1997).*fn3 Congress directed TISC to "make recommendations to the District of Columbia Council for amendments to the District of Columbia Code with respect to the sentences to be imposed for all felonies committed on or after [August 5, 2000]." § 11212 (a), 111 Stat. at 741. Specifically, Congress mandated that TISC recommendations meet "the truth in sentencing standards of [section] 20104(a)(1) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994." § 11212 (b)(1), 111 Stat. at 741. By doing so, parole was abolished with respect to certain offenses in the District of Columbia,*fn4 and the D.C. sentencing system that then provided indeterminate sentences with the possibility of parole, had to be converted to a system of determinate sentences with no parole. See Revitalization Act, § 11212 (b)(2)(C), 111 Stat. 741; D.C. Code § 24-112 (b)(1) (referring to 18 U.S.C. § 13704 (a)(1)); D.C. Council Report on Bill 12-523 at 3-4. Persons convicted of covered offenses are required to serve no less than 85 percent of any sentence imposed. See D.C. Code § 24-403.01(d) (referring to 18 U.S.C. § 3624 (b)).

In addition, the TISC recommendations had to ensure that, for all felony offenses, "an adequate period of supervision [would] be imposed to follow release from [any] imprisonment." See Revitalization Act, § 11212 (b)(2)(C), 111 Stat. 741. Offenders were to "be subject to the authority of the United States Parole Commission until the completion of the term of supervised release," id. at § 11233 (c)(2), 111 Stat. 749, and the Parole Commission was to "have and exercise the same authority as is vested in the United States district courts by" 18 U.S.C. § 3583 (d)-(I). In January 1998, TISC submitted its "Formal Recommendations" to the Council of the District of Columbia followed by a "Commentary and Suggestions Report" (March 1998) in which it discussed its recommendations. Consistent with the Revitalization Act, it recommended that all felons receive an adequate period of supervised release following incarceration. Specifically, TISC recommended that the Council adopt a provision stating that "If an offender is sentenced to imprisonment . . . the court shall impose an adequate period of supervision to follow release from the imprisonment . . . ." In addition, TISC recommended that the Council create an advisory sentencing commission to review pertinent sentencing data and use it to make further recommendations to the Council for establishing a fair sentencing system. As a result, in 1998 the Council created an Advisory Commission on Sentencing ("Advisory Commission").*fn5 See "Advisory Commission on Sentencing Establishment Act of 1998," D.C. Law 12-167, D.C. Code § 3-101 et. seq. (2001). In 1998, the Council also adopted the determinate sentencing system recommended by TISC for felonies committed on or after August 5, 2000, including mandatory terms of supervised release under the U.S. Parole Commission. See "The Truth in Sentencing Amendment Act of 1998," D.C. Law 12-165, D.C. Code § 24-403.01.*fn6

Following the Council's enactment of TISC's recommendations, the Advisory Commission issued a memorandum dated July 15, 2002, to "Judges, Assistant United States Attorneys and members of the Defense Bar," which addresses areas of possible confusion regarding determinate sentencing, including the manner in which split sentences should be imposed under the new sentencing scheme. In defining a "split sentence" the Advisory Commission stated that "[a] split sentence must have these elements: an imposed prison sentence, an imposed period of supervised release, suspension of some, but not all, of the prison time, suspension of all of the supervised release term, and an imposed period of probation, not to exceed 5 years, to follow release from the unsuspended portion of the prison time."

In addition, the Advisory Commission provided a formula for sentencing courts that would allow them to achieve the imposition of an effective split sentence:

To impose a legal split sentence, the court should impose the prison sentence it wants the defendant to serve if probation is later revoked and impose the amount of supervised release that it must impose with that prison sentence. Then the court should suspend the amount of prison time it wants to suspend and suspend all the supervised release time. The court should then set an appropriate term of probation. The court must impose a term of supervised ...


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