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People v. Rice

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division A

November 19, 2015

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Trevor Ronald Rice, Defendant-Appellant.

Routt County District Court No. 13CR30 Honorable Shelley A. Hill, Judge

Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Rebecca L. Williams, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Kielly Dunn, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant



¶ 1 Defendant, Trevor Ronald Rice, pleaded guilty to a single count of distributing cocaine in the amount of 25 to 450 grams under section 18-18-405(1), (2)(a)(I), and 3(a)(I).[1] Ch. 333, sec. 10, § 18-18-405, 2013 Colo. Sess. Laws 1909, 1912; Ch. 281, sec. 55, § 18-18-405(1)(a), 2012 Colo. Sess. Laws 1622. Rice argued to the sentencing court that extraordinary circumstances necessitated a mitigated sentence in his case. Thus, at his sentencing hearing, Rice argued that section 18-1.3-401(6), C.R.S. 2015, was applicable, and he presented eight witnesses and numerous documents regarding alleged mitigating circumstances. The sentencing court found that section 18-18-405(3)(a)(I) was a mandatory sentencing provision which did not allow it discretion to lower Rice's sentence below the minimum of the presumptive range required under subsection (3)(a)(I). Rice contends the court erred in concluding that extraordinary mitigating factors could not be considered in his case. We disagree and affirm Rice's sentence.

I. Background and Procedural History

¶ 2 Rice's charges arose from three separate instances in which he sold or distributed cocaine. In the first instance, a confidential informant purchased two ounces of cocaine from Rice. In the second instance, Rice sold three ounces of cocaine. In the third instance, he arranged to sell five ounces of cocaine. Before the sale of the five ounces could be completed, police arrested Rice and searched his vehicle pursuant to arrest and search warrants. They discovered nearly 5 ounces, or approximately 140 grams, of cocaine hidden in Rice's car.

¶ 3 Rice was charged with distribution of a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to distribute. Rice pleaded guilty to distribution of a schedule II controlled substance pursuant to section 18-18-405(1), (2)(a)(I), and (3)(a)(I). 2013 Colo. Sess. Laws at 1909, 1912; 2012 Colo. Sess. Laws at 1622. As part of the plea agreement, Rice acknowledged that he knew and understood that the sentencing range for his crime was a prison sentence between four and sixteen years in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC).

¶ 4 A few days prior to his sentencing hearing, Rice filed documentation in support of his argument that the court should consider extraordinary mitigating circumstances at sentencing. At the sentencing hearing defense counsel referred to these documents, and eight people spoke on Rice's behalf. The mitigating circumstances tended to show that Rice had no prior criminal history, he possessed good character, he was enrolled in and received excellent grades at a four-year college, and he was remorseful for his crimes.

¶ 5 Pursuant to section 18-1.3-401(6), Rice requested that the court sentence him to two years in the custody of the DOC, which was half the minimum of the applicable presumptive sentencing range. The presentence investigation report recommended the minimum sentence under the presumptive range, four years in the custody of the DOC. Further, because there were at least three known instances where Rice had sold or distributed cocaine, and because he was distributing the drugs outside of his community solely for monetary gain, the prosecutor requested that the court sentence Rice to six years in the custody of the DOC.

¶ 6 The prosecutor argued that the court did not have the discretion to sentence Rice below the statutory minimum because section 18-18-405(3)(a)(I) was a mandatory sentencing provision that required the court to impose at least the minimum sentence in the statutory presumptive range. Rice argued that the extraordinary mitigating circumstances statute was not in conflict with section 18-18-405(3)(a)(I) and that the court could and should consider his evidence which showed such mitigating circumstances. The court recessed the hearing to consider the parties' arguments and ultimately agreed with the prosecutor that Rice was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence under section 18-18-405(3)(a)(I), which required a DOC sentence of at least four years.

¶ 7 The court concluded that, pursuant to 18-18-405(3)(a)(I), it was required to impose a sentence of at least four years. Emphasizing that Rice had distributed illegal controlled substances three times, the court sentenced Rice to five years in the DOC and to five years of mandatory parole. This appeal followed.

II. Standard of Review

¶ 8 A trial court has extremely broad discretion when, as here, it is imposing a sentence within the presumptive range. A court's sentencing decision will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion. People v. Linares-Guzman, 195 P.3d 1130, 1137 (Colo.App. 2008). "A sentencing court abuses its discretion if it fails to consider the nature of the offense, the character and rehabilitative potential of the offender, the development of respect for the law and the ...

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