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People v. Sandoval-Candelaria

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

March 24, 2014

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Robert Sandoval-Candelaria, Respondent

Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Court of Appeals Case No. 07CA759.

SYLLABUS

In this appeal, the supreme court considers whether a six-month and seven-day sentencing delay was " unreasonable" under Crim. P. 32(b) and unconstitutional under the speedy trial clauses of the United States and Colorado Constitutions. The supreme court holds that the six-month and seven-day sentencing delay was not " unreasonable" under Crim. P. 32(b) because the trial court imposed the delay for a legally justifiable reason, namely, to further the General Assembly's intent to require trial courts to sentence recidivist offenders, like the defendant, within an aggravated range. The supreme court rejects the defendant's constitutional claim because the sentencing delay was not presumptively prejudicial.

For Petitioner: John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Katherine A. Hansen, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado.

For Respondent: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender, Ned R. Jaeckle, Deputy Public Defender, Denver, Colorado.

OPINION

Page 488

HOOD, JUSTICE.

[¶1] We granted certiorari to consider whether a six-month and seven-day sentencing delay was " unreasonable" under Crim. P. 32(b) and unconstitutional under the speedy trial clauses of the United States and Colorado Constitutions.

[¶2] Following the defendant's conviction for manslaughter, the trial court delayed sentencing to await the resolution of an unrelated felony charge. The defendant pleaded guilty to that unrelated felony, and the manslaughter case proceeded to sentencing. At the rescheduled sentencing hearing, the trial court found that the defendant's conviction for the unrelated felony triggered sentencing within an aggravated range. It then sentenced the defendant to twice the maximum presumptive sentence--or twelve years in prison--for manslaughter.

[¶3] A division of the court of appeals held that the sentencing delay was " unreasonable" under Crim. P. 32(b). The majority also held that the delay violated the defendant's constitutional right to speedy sentencing.[1]

[¶4] We reverse the court of appeals. We hold that the six-month and seven-day sentencing delay was not " unreasonable" under Crim. P. 32(b) because the trial court imposed the delay for a legally justifiable reason, namely, to further the General Assembly's intent to require trial courts to sentence recidivist offenders, like the defendant, within an aggravated range. We reject the defendant's constitutional claim because the sentencing delay was not presumptively prejudicial.

Page 489

I. Background

[¶5] The defendant, Robert Sandoval-Candelaria, was charged with first degree murder but convicted of manslaughter for killing his common law wife.

[¶6] At sentencing, the prosecution requested six years in prison, the maximum sentence for manslaughter. The trial court asked whether it could impose a longer sentence based on the presence of what it perceived as a sentence-enhancing circumstance: the defendant had been out on bond for an unrelated felony when he killed his wife. Because the defendant had not yet been convicted in the " on-bond" case, both parties correctly observed that this would have been premature.

[¶7] The trial court then suggested delaying sentencing until the disposition of the on-bond case. The defendant raised a " strenuous objection," in part because he inferred that the sole purpose of the delay was " to allow the court to impose up to 12 years." Over this objection, the trial court postponed sentencing until the on-bond case was resolved, reasoning that " being on bond when you commit a felony is an aggravating circumstance." Later, the defendant pleaded guilty in the on-bond case.

[¶8] The manslaughter case proceeded to sentencing, six months and seven days after the trial court rescheduled the original sentencing hearing. The trial court expressed its view that " it [had] seemed wrong" to be limited to six years and " that the coincidence of timing" --that is, the fact that the on-bond case " trailed" the defendant's murder trial--should not limit its freedom to impose a sentence within an aggravated range. The trial court then imposed the maximum sentence it could: 12 years.

[¶9] The court of appeals concluded that the sentencing delay was " unreasonable" under Crim. P. 32(b) because it was not legally justifiable. It reasoned that the trial court could not delay sentencing to have available the option of a longer sentence " than was lawfully possible" on the originally scheduled sentencing date. The majority also found the delay unconstitutional.

[¶10] The People sought certiorari review of the court of appeals' opinion, raising two issues: (1) whether the delay was " unreasonable" under Crim. P. 32(b); and (2) whether the delay violated the defendant's right to speedy sentencing under the speedy trial clauses of the United States and Colorado ...


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