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Pineda-Liberato v. People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

October 2, 2017

Karla Pineda-Liberato, Petitioner
The People of the State of Colorado. Respondent

         C.A.R. 50 Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 14CA286 Weld County District Court Case No. 06CR460 Honorable Julie C. Hoskins, Judge

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Douglas K. Wilson, Public Defender Tracy C. Renner, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondent: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General Matthew S. Holman, First Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado



         ¶1 This case concerns the district court's authority to continue to collect from the petitioner, Karla Pineda-Liberato, unpaid restitution, court costs, and fees ordered as conditions of a deferred sentence after the completion of that deferred sentence.[1] The case comes to us on review of two orders from the Weld County District Court, the first finding that the court lacked authority to collect unpaid restitution (but that avenues potentially remained open for the victim to do so), and the second finding that the court lacked authority to collect unpaid fees and costs.

         ¶2 With respect to restitution, we conclude that the pertinent statutes allow the district court to collect any unpaid amounts from Pineda-Liberato after the completion of her deferred sentence, until the restitution has been paid in full. With respect to the fees and costs ordered as probationary-like supervision conditions, however, we conclude that the district court lacked the authority to collect such unpaid amounts after it terminated Pineda-Liberato's deferred sentence, withdrew her guilty plea, and dismissed her case with prejudice.

         ¶3 Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the district court's orders.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶4 The People charged Pineda-Liberato with two felony counts of theft ($500 to $15, 000) and two felony counts of providing false information to a pawn broker after she pawned a laptop computer and a television that she had rented from Rent-A-Center.

         ¶5 Eventually, Pineda-Liberato entered into a plea agreement under which (1) she would plead guilty to one count of theft; (2) she would receive "a two-year deferred sentence with terms and conditions to include 48 hours of useful public service, pay restitution as ordered by the court, and any other terms and conditions the court deems appropriate"; and (3) the People would dismiss the remaining counts. In addition to these terms, the agreement contained a handwritten addendum that read, "No jail at initial sentencing." If Pineda-Liberato complied with the terms of her deferred sentence, then, according to the parties' Stipulation for Supervised Deferred Sentence, Pineda-Liberato could withdraw her guilty plea and the theft charge would be dismissed with prejudice.

         ¶6 On November 14, 2006, the district court accepted the terms of the plea agreement, Pineda-Liberato pleaded guilty to one count of theft, and the court dismissed the three remaining charges against her. The court also sentenced Pineda-Liberato to a two-year deferred sentence to be supervised by the probation department.

         ¶7 Pursuant to the above-described plea agreement, the conditions of the deferred sentence included requirements that Pineda-Liberato pay fees and costs in the amount of $1572.50, complete forty-eight hours of community service, and comply with certain probationary-like "standard conditions" (such as a mandate that she not leave the state of Colorado without written permission from her probation officer or the court).

         ¶8 The fees and costs imposed as a condition of Pineda-Liberato's deferred sentence comprised the following:

• Victim compensation cost:


• Victim assistance surcharge:


• Time payment fee:


• Supervision fee:


• Court costs - docket fee:


• Public defender fee:


         ¶9 After a hearing on December 13, 2006, the court further ordered Pineda-Liberato to pay $1520.45 in restitution to Rent-A-Center.

         ¶10 In September 2007, the People filed a revocation complaint. According to the complaint, Pineda-Liberato had been detained by federal immigration authorities on July 31, 2007 and deported two days later. As a result, she had "failed to complete her responsibilities under the sentence of Probation [sic]." In order to ensure her return to court should she reenter the United States, the People asked the court to issue a warrant for her arrest.

         ¶11 The court did so, but the authorities did not arrest Pineda-Liberato, and the court never ruled on the revocation complaint. Instead, for reasons not pertinent here, in 2012, the People moved to "vacate" the warrant and to issue, instead, a summons requiring Pineda-Liberato to appear and to show cause why her probation should not be revoked and the deferred sentence should not be imposed. The court granted the People's motion and issued the summons.

         ¶12 In October 2013, six years after the People had asked the court to revoke Pineda-Liberato's deferred sentence, the People moved to withdraw their revocation complaint, "terminate probation/deferred judgment and sentence as completed, and vacate the upcoming court date." The court granted this motion on the day that it was filed, ordering that "the revocation complaint in the above-entitled matter be and hereby is withdrawn and probation be terminated." As of that time, Pineda-Liberato had paid $992 toward the court costs, fees, and restitution originally ordered. Of that amount, $704.50 had been applied to restitution, leaving a balance of $815.95 owed to Rent-A-Center.

         ¶13 Approximately one month later, the People sought, and the court imposed, an additional $520.25 in "transport fees" to be paid into the registry of the court. These fees reflected the costs that the Weld County Sheriff's Office had incurred in extraditing Pineda-Liberato from Texas to Colorado, and they brought the total court costs and fees that Pineda-Liberato owed to $1905.25.

         ¶14 Shortly thereafter, the district court sua sponte raised the question of whether it still had jurisdiction to collect restitution after the case had been dismissed "based upon the defendant otherwise having completed all other requirements of the deferred sentence except the payment of restitution." The court held a hearing on the matter and on January 3, 2014, issued a written order concluding that it did not. Specifically, the court found that once the People had withdrawn their revocation complaint and the case had been dismissed, the court no longer had jurisdiction over Pineda-Liberato and could no longer require her to pay restitution. The court was careful to note, however, that because the restitution order constituted a "final civil judgment" pursuant to 18-1.3-603(4)(a), C.R.S. (2017), Rent-A-Center could collect the unpaid balance of $815.95 "independently, through any legal means available to [it]."

         ¶15 In reaching this conclusion, the court relied on dicta from People v. Carbajal, 2012 COA 107, ¶ 49, 312 P.3d 1183, 1191 (Carbajal II), which the court interpreted as rendering the restitution order null and void when the case was dismissed. In addition, the court noted that pursuant to both section 18-1.3-602(2), C.R.S. (2017), and section 18-1.3-603, C.R.S. (2017), once a person has successfully completed a deferred sentence, his or her guilty plea is withdrawn, and the case is dismissed, no conviction is deemed to have existed.

         ¶16 Having obtained this ruling regarding her ongoing restitution obligations, Pineda-Liberato asked the court to address the same jurisdictional issue as to the previously ordered court costs and fees. On January 13, the court issued a second written order, observing that its previous conclusion "that restitution remains as a civil judgment" had been based on the applicable statutes. Because no comparable statute existed by which court costs and fees could be treated similarly, however, the court vacated all "previously ordered court costs and fees, " which then totaled $1905.25.

         ¶17 Pineda-Liberato timely filed a notice of appeal in the court of appeals, and a month later, the General Assembly passed a bill titled, "An Act Concerning Collection of Restitution Ordered Pursuant to a Deferred Judgment." H.B. 14-1035, 69th Gen. Assemb., 2d Reg. Sess. (Colo. 2014); ch. 21, secs. 1-2, §§ 16-18.5-111, 18-1.3-603(4)(a), 2014 Colo. Sess. Laws 152. This Act amended the restitution statute, section 18-1.3-603(4)(a), to provide that restitution orders remain in effect "notwithstanding the termination of a deferred judgment and sentence or a deferred adjudication." See ch. 21, sec. 2, § 18-1.3-603(4)(a), 2014 Colo. Sess. Laws 152. The Act also added section 16-1.3-111, which stated, "The provisions of this article [governing restitution in criminal actions] apply notwithstanding the termination of a deferred judgment and sentence or a deferred adjudication." See ch. 21, sec. 1, § 16-18.5-111, 2014 Colo. Sess. Laws 152.

         ¶18 Pineda-Liberato then requested, and the court of appeals granted, numerous extensions (totaling 536 days) to file her opening brief. In the meantime, the State Court Administrator wrote to the Chief Judge of the court of appeals, asking the Chief Judge to consider transferring Pineda-Liberato's case to this court. The Administrator explained that in the wake of Carbajal II, he had "advised Chief Judges [and other judicial branch personnel] to put collections efforts on hold in deferred cases that had terminated" and had "instructed them not to vacate judgments regarding restitution, costs, and fees and to retain collected funds unless a court ordered otherwise." Then, the Administrator noted, came (1) the 2014 amendments, which, effective March 7 of that year, clarified that the termination of a deferred sentence did not obviate offenders' obligations to pay outstanding restitution in cases that had ended on or after the effective date, and (2) the instant case, which the Administrator expected would provide guidance regarding unpaid restitution in pre-2014 deferred sentencing cases. The Administrator observed, however, that because of the numerous extensions of time granted Pineda-Liberato, her opening brief was not due until July 2015. This posed a problem because approximately $3.9 million in outstanding restitution and $5.9 million in uncollected fees and costs existed statewide in deferred sentencing cases that had ended between January 1, 2000 and March 6, 2014. According to the Administrator, the importance of providing direction and finality to "victims, offenders, and the judicial branch" regarding these pre-2014 cases that then hung "in limbo" justified transferring Pineda-Liberato's appeal to this court.

         ¶19 The court of appeals agreed and pursuant to section 13-4-109(1)(a)-(b), C.R.S. (2017), and C.A.R. 50(a)(1)-(2), filed in this court an "ORDER for determination of jurisdiction." After summarizing the facts that the Administrator's letter had provided, the court of appeals asked us to accept jurisdiction to resolve the above-described pre-2014 cases that were then "in limbo." We did so and framed the issue presented as "[w]hether a trial court has the authority to continue to collect restitution, costs, and fees when a defendant has completed a deferred judgment and sentence."

         II. Analysis

         ¶ 20 We begin our analysis by describing the applicable standard of review and pertinent rules of statutory interpretation. We then discuss the statutory provisions that control the assessment of restitution and the imposition of court costs and fees as conditions of deferred sentences. Finally, we apply those provisions to determine whether the district court in this case retained the authority to collect restitution, court costs, and fees from Pineda-Liberato after it had dismissed the case against her based on the termination of her deferred sentence.

         A. Standard of Review and Rules of ...

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