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People v. Sandoval

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

March 26, 2018

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Alfred Gabriel Sandoval, Respondent

          Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 14CA2387

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General Brock J. Swanson, Assistant Attorney General

          Attorneys for Respondent: The Noble Law Firm, LLC Antony Noble

          OPINION

          HART, JUSTICE

         ¶1 We granted certiorari to determine whether the trial court plainly erred when it sentenced the defendant, Alfred Sandoval, to an aggravated community corrections sentence based on judicial fact-finding to which Sandoval did not stipulate.[1] We find that it did.

         ¶2 In affirming the decision of the court of appeals, we hold that Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), applies to a direct sentence to community corrections. We further hold that it was plain error for the trial court to sentence the defendant to an aggravated sentence to community corrections without meeting Blakely's requirements. We therefore remand for resentencing consistent with this opinion.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶3 Alfred Sandoval was charged with first degree assault, a class three felony, and possession of a weapon by a previous offender, a class five felony. Sandoval entered into a plea agreement to the reduced charge of felony menacing, a class five felony, in exchange for dismissal of the original charges. The plea agreement also provided that Sandoval would not be sentenced to the Department of Corrections ("DOC"). It did not include any stipulation to judicial fact-finding at sentencing.

          ¶4 At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor argued for a sentence to community corrections. The defense argued for a sentence to probation. Neither party argued for a sentence of any particular length. After stating that it would not consider a sentence to probation, the court asked Sandoval to explain what had happened during the underlying incident so that it could determine the length of the community corrections sentence. Sandoval explained:

I went over there to see if he could give me some money that I lent him and stuff like that. He pulled out a gun, we got into a little wrestle-around, a shot went off and I walked out.

         The district court asked Sandoval a few follow-up questions and then stated:

Well, obviously this case presents a situation of who to believe. The victim isn't the most believable individual because he gave several different stories. The defendant's version, quite frankly, is no more credible. So the Court is left with what the crime that was pled guilty to is and some of the underlying facts, and the underlying facts are that a person got shot, essentially got knee-capped.
The Court does find that there are aggravating circumstances in this case. Specifically, the Court notes that Mr. Sandoval went to the victim's home, entered the victim's home to collect what he describes as a debt, what the victim describes as a drug debt. Quite frankly, given the statement that the victim was high on methamphetamines, the Court finds it credible that this was a drug debt that was being collected.
A gun was produced. The victim says the defendant produced the gun and shot him in the knee, which means that he knee-capped him. The Court finds that in and of itself would be aggravation, ...

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