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People v. Garcia

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Second Division

August 25, 2016

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Danny Gene Garcia, Defendant-Appellant.

         City and County of Denver District Court Nos. 14CR10235 & 14CR10393 Honorable Brian R. Whitney, Judge

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Melissa D. Allen, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Hardy and Juba, LLC, Michael S. Juba, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          WEBB JUDGE

          ¶ 1 Defendant, Danny Gene Garcia, appeals the district court's refusal to award presentence confinement credit (PSCC) against the sentences it imposed in case numbers 14CR10235 and 14CR10393. He contends that we should interpret "may" in section 18-1.3-407(2)(a)(I), C.R.S. 2015, as requiring a district or juvenile court to award PSCC whenever an offender is sentenced to the Youthful Offender System (YOS). Alternatively, he contends that even if "may" is permissive, the district court abused its discretion in refusing to award PSCC. We reject both contentions and affirm.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 The prosecution charged defendant as an adult with multiple felonies in each case, although he had committed the offenses when he was a juvenile. Under a global disposition, defendant pleaded guilty to one felony in each case. The parties stipulated to concurrent sentences in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC), with a controlling sentence of eighteen years in case number 14CR10235. They also agreed that each DOC sentence would be suspended if defendant successfully completed six years in the YOS. The court sentenced defendant consistent with the agreement, but refused to award PSCC.

         II. Section 18-1.3-407(2)(a)(I) Does Not Mandate an Award of PSCC

         ¶ 3 The pertinent portion of section 18-1.3-407(2)(a)(I) provides: "The court may award an offender sentenced to the [YOS] credit for presentence confinement; except that such credit shall not reduce the offender's actual time served in the [YOS] to fewer than two years." (Emphasis added.)

         ¶ 4 Defendant first contends the district court misinterpreted section 18-1.3-407(2)(a)(I) as making a PSCC award discretionary. He argues that "may" in section 18-1.3-407(2)(a)(I) requires a court to award PSCC when it sentences a defendant to the YOS (unless the credit would reduce the sentence to less than two years). In effect, he asserts that "may" means "shall" because the YOS statute mandates that an offender be sentenced as an adult and be subject to the laws and DOC rules, regulations, and standards pertaining to adult inmates; DOC operates the YOS; and section 18-1.3-405, C.R.S. 2015, requires a court to award PSCC when a defendant is sentenced to the DOC.

         ¶ 5 Defendant's three assertions are correct. But considering the commonly understood permissive meaning of "may, " the structure of section 18-1.3-407(2)(a)(I), and the rehabilitative purpose of the YOS, we reject his conclusion that "may" means "shall." A. Preservation and Standard of Review

         ¶ 6 Defendant made a similar statutory interpretation argument to the trial court. Statutory interpretation is a question of law subject to de novo review. See Dubois v. People, 211 P.3d 41, 43 (Colo. 2009).

         B. Rules Governing Statutory Interpretation

         ¶ 7 Several incontrovertible rules inform the task of statutory interpretation.

         ¶ 8 To begin, a court endeavors to interpret a statute "in strict accordance with the General Assembly's purpose and intent in enacting them." In re 2000-2001 Dist. Grand Jury, 97 P.3d 921, 924 (Colo. 2004). In determining that intent, the court first looks to the language chosen by the General Assembly, see Martin v. People, 27 P.3d 846, 851 (Colo. 2001), giving words and phrases ...


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