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Carrera v. People

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

September 30, 2019

Derrick Lee Carrera, Petitioner
v.
The People of the State of Colorado. Respondent

          Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 13CA1629

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Megan A. Ring, Public Defender Jessica Sommer, Deputy Public Defender Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondent: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, Matthew S. Holman, First Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          OPINION

          SAMOUR JUSTICE

         ¶1 This case requires us to interpret section 18-1.3-102(1), C.R.S. (2019), as it read between 2002 and 2012.[1] That statute authorizes trial courts to place a defendant on a deferred judgment and sentence ("deferred judgment") by "continu[ing] [his] case . . . for a period not to exceed four years" for the purpose of entering the judgment and sentence upon his guilty plea, "except that such period may be extended for an additional time up to one hundred eighty days" if the payment of restitution is the only condition of supervision not yet fulfilled.

         ¶2 The parties agree that when a defendant is placed on a deferred judgment for four years, the statutory maximum, the trial court may extend the deferral period for up to 180 days if the requirement to pay restitution is the sole condition of supervision that has not been satisfied. But what if the original period of the deferred judgment is shorter than four years? In that situation, does the statute permit the trial court to extend the deferred judgment for any reason, so long as the aggregate period of deferral does not exceed four years? The prosecution answers yes. Derrick Lee Carrera answers no and argues that the trial court is always limited when extending the original deferred judgment period-it may do so only one time, for up to 180 days, and only if the payment of restitution is the sole condition of supervision that remains unsatisfied.

         ¶3 In a fractured opinion, a division of the court of appeals determined that the language of section 18-1.3-102(1) is ambiguous because the parties' diametrically opposed constructions are both reasonable. People v. Carrera, No. 13CA1629, slip. op. at 7 (Nov. 10, 2016). It then concluded that "other interpretive aids must be consulted" and that "those interpretive aids refute [Carrera's] reading of the statute and support the [prosecution's] interpretation." Id.

         ¶4 There is no need for us "to gild refined gold, to paint the lily, " William Shakespeare, King John act 4, sc. 2, line 11, because the division resolved the parties' dispute in a thoughtful and well-reasoned opinion. Thus, we affirm based on the same rationale.

         ¶5 We hold that section 18-1.3-102(1) does not prohibit a trial court, in the exercise of its discretion, from extending a defendant's deferred judgment for any legitimate reason and as many times as it deems appropriate, so long as the aggregate period of the deferral does not exceed four years. We further hold that when a defendant has been on a deferred judgment for four years, the statute empowers the trial court, in the exercise of its discretion, to extend the deferred judgment for a period not to exceed 180 days, so long as the payment of restitution is the only condition of supervision not yet fulfilled.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶6 Carrera pled guilty to possession of one gram or less of a schedule I controlled substance, a class 6 felony, in August 2010. Consistent with the parties' plea agreement, in October 2010, the district court placed Carrera on a two-year deferred judgment and required the probation department to supervise him. The court imposed certain conditions of supervision, including the payment of $1, 183.50 in fees and costs.[2] No restitution was requested or ordered.

         ¶7 In September 2012, Carrera and his case manager filed a joint motion requesting that the deferred judgment be extended for six months, from October 4, 2012, when it was scheduled to expire, until April 4, 2013. The motion explained that the extension was necessary "[t]o allow [Carrera] more time in which to complete his Court-ordered obligations." It then specified that Carrera still owed some of the fees and costs imposed. The prosecution did not file an objection, and the district court granted the motion and extended the deferred judgment until April 4, 2013.

         ¶8 On April 2, 2013, Carrera's case manager submitted a complaint to revoke the deferred judgment, alleging that Carrera had failed to pay $938.50 of the fees and costs and to complete outpatient treatment. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court found that the prosecution had proven both of the alleged violations. It thus revoked Carrera's deferred judgment, entered a judgment of conviction, and sentenced him to unsupervised probation for a period of one year. Carrera appealed.

         ¶9 Before the court of appeals, Carrera raised several claims. As relevant here, he argued that the district court lacked authority to extend his deferred judgment in 2012 for a condition unrelated to the payment of restitution and, therefore, it had no jurisdiction to revoke his deferred judgment in 2013. According to Carrera, the district court had authority to extend his two-year deferred judgment only once and only if the failure to pay restitution was the sole condition of supervision not yet fulfilled. Since the trial court extended the deferred judgment in October 2012 based on his failure to pay the fees and costs in full, Carrera asserted that the extension was invalid. Thus, maintained Carrera, the court lost subject matter jurisdiction on October 4, 2012, when the original two-year deferred judgment period expired.

         ¶10 A split division of the court of appeals affirmed. Although acknowledging that Carrera's interpretation of the statute was reasonable, it determined that the prosecution's interpretation, which ran 180 degrees counter to it, was equally reasonable. Finding the statute ambiguous, the division turned to three interpretive aids: (1) the statutory history; (2) the purpose behind the statute's enactment; and (3) the consequences of the parties' dissimilar interpretations. It then rejected Carrera's construction and embraced the prosecution's interpretation.

         ¶11 The division thus ruled that section 18-1.3-102(1) does not limit how many times, how long, or for what reasons the court may extend a deferred judgment, "other than to cap (ordinarily) the total continuance at a period of four years." Carrera, slip. op. at 6. In so doing, the division reasoned that the exception clause refers to an extension "beyond the statutory maximum period of four years, " not to an extension "beyond the original period" of the deferred judgment (which may be less than four years). Id. at 7. In his dissent, Judge Webb sided with Carrera's reading of the statute. Id. at 27–28 (Webb, J., dissenting).

         ¶12 Carrera then sought review of the division's decision, and we granted his petition for certiorari in part.[3]

         II. ...


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