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Diehl v. Weiser

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

July 1, 2019

Scott Edward Diehl, Petitioner-Appellee
v.
Philip J. Weiser, Colorado Attorney General; Jason Lengerich, Warden of Buena Vista Correctional Facility; and Dean Williams, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Respondents-Appellants

          Appeal from the District Court Chaffee County District Court Case No. 16CV30043 Honorable Patrick W. Murphy, Judge

          Attorneys for Petitioner-Appellee: The Law Office of April M. Elliott, P.C. April M. Elliott Denver, Colorado Reppucci Law Firm, P.C. Jonathan D. Reppucci Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondents-Appellants: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General Nicole Suzanne Gellar, First Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          OPINION

          HART, JUSTICE

         ¶1 This habeas corpus appeal requires us to determine how the Department of Corrections ("DOC") should apply the "one-continuous-sentence" statute, section 17-22.5-101, C.R.S. (2018), to an offender who was eligible for and released to parole, committed additional crimes while on parole, and was sentenced for those subsequent crimes concurrent with his initial sentence. The central question is whether the offender's original prison sentences should be included in the newly calculated continuous sentence for purposes of determining a new parole eligibility date. We conclude today that they should not.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 Petitioner-Appellee, Scott Edward Diehl, pleaded guilty to three drug offenses in 2005. For each offense, he received a sentence that required him to serve a designated number of years in prison as well as a period of mandatory parole. He began serving his term of imprisonment for those sentences, which ran concurrently, on September 6, 2005.

         ¶3 Diehl was released from prison at the discretion of the state board of parole on August 16, 2011, and he immediately began serving a five-year period of mandatory parole. Diehl absconded from parole from February 14 to March 28, 2013. He was arrested and returned to prison to serve the remainder of his mandatory parole term incarcerated. During this period of reincarceration, Diehl pleaded guilty in three additional cases arising from the time when he was on parole. He received new sentences that were to run concurrently with his outstanding sentences.

         ¶4 On December 8, 2016, Diehl filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the district court, arguing that he was being unlawfully denied consideration for discretionary parole. He contended that the DOC erred in using August 6, 2011, the date on which he was first released to mandatory parole, rather than September 6, 2005, the date on which he was first sentenced to prison, to calculate his parole eligibility date.

         ¶5 The district court agreed with Diehl. In doing so, the court rejected the DOC's argument that Diehl's "sentence to imprisonment" on his original convictions had been discharged when he began serving his mandatory period of parole and was thus no longer relevant to his new parole eligibility date. The district court concluded that a sentence, for purposes of Colorado's "one-continuous-sentence" rule, see § 17-22.5-101, is comprised of two components-a period of incarceration and a period of mandatory parole. Although the imprisonment component of the sentence was statutorily discharged when Diehl began serving his period of mandatory parole, see § 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(D), C.R.S. (2018), the district court noted that the statutory scheme provides that Diehl's overall sentence was not "deemed to have [been] fully discharged" until Diehl "either completed or [had] been discharged by the state board of parole from the mandatory period of parole imposed pursuant to" section 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V). Therefore, the district court concluded that the DOC was required to calculate Diehl's parole eligibility date using his first date of incarceration, September 6, 2005.

         ¶6 The DOC appealed the district court's order.[1]

         II. Analysis

         ¶7 We begin by addressing our jurisdiction to resolve this appeal. We then set out the appropriate standard of review, noting that we give considerable deference to the DOC's interpretation of the statutory scheme for inmate and parole time computations. Finally, we explain why the DOC's interpretation of the relevant statutes is reasonable and the new parole eligibility date for an inmate who was reincarcerated for a parole violation and is then sentenced for additional offenses should be calculated using the beginning of the period of mandatory parole as the start of the inmate's one continuous sentence.

         A. ...


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