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People v. Baker

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

November 18, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Douglas L. Baker. Respondent

          Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 16CA704

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General William G. Kozeliski, Senior Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Respondent: Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, P.C. Adam Mueller Denver, Colorado

          OPINION

          HART JUSTICE

          ¶1 We are asked to decide whether a defendant's claim that he is entitled to more presentence confinement credit ("PSCC") than he originally received is properly understood as a challenge to a sentence "not authorized by law" under Crim. P. 35(a).[1] We conclude that it is not. PSCC is not a component of a sentence; instead, it is time served before a sentence is imposed, which is later credited against the defendant's sentence.

         ¶2 This conclusion does not mean that defendants have no avenue to seek correction of an improper calculation of PSCC. To the contrary, our legal system provides several means to ensure that an error in calculating the credit owed to a defendant can be corrected. A defendant may, for example, challenge the calculation on direct appeal or through a Crim. P. 35(a) "illegal manner" claim. In this case, because all parties agree that both the parties and the court simply overlooked Douglas Baker's eighteen missing days of PSCC, we conclude that Rule 36 would have been the appropriate route to correct the calculation error. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the case with directions to return it to the district court.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶3 On November 4, 2009, a Jefferson County court issued a warrant for Douglas Baker's arrest for sexual assault on a child, pattern of abuse, a class three felony. When Baker learned that he was facing arrest, he fled to Florida.

         ¶4 On June 27, 2011, Baker was arrested on the warrant and booked into a Florida jail. He was then extradited to Colorado where he was booked into the Jefferson County jail on July 15, 2011. He remained in custody for the duration of the case.

         ¶5 Baker pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault on a child, position of trust, a class three felony, and, on July 12, 2012, he was sentenced to a term of ten years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The court awarded Baker 364 days of credit for time served and designated him a Sexually Violent Predator ("SVP"). At the sentencing hearing, Baker objected to the SVP finding and told the court that he would file a motion objecting to it. Baker, however, failed to file a motion objecting to his SVP status for over three years, and, in the interim, he never filed a direct appeal.

         ¶6 Almost three years later, on April 20, 2015, Baker filed a pro se motion entitled, "Motion to Correct Sentence Pursuant to Crim. P. Rule 35(a)." In his motion, Baker argued that he was not given PSCC for his time in custody in Florida before he was extradited to Colorado. The People responded, agreeing that Baker was entitled to credit for that time and expressing no objection to the court awarding Baker an additional eighteen days of PSCC.

         ¶7 On May 20, 2015, the district court awarded Baker an additional eighteen days of PSCC for a total of 382 days. In December 2015, at Baker's request, the court clarified that this award amounted to a ruling on Baker's Rule 35(a) motion.

         ¶8 On January 11, 2016, Baker filed a pro se motion entitled, "Motion to Vacate Sexually Violent Predator Status Pursuant to C.R.S. § 18-3-414.5(1)(a)."[2] Relying on our decision in Leyva v. People, 184 P.3d 48 (Colo. 2008), Baker asserted that his motion was not time barred because "the recent correction of his illegal sentence" pursuant to Rule 35(a) restarted the three-year time clock for collaterally attacking his original judgment of conviction, including the SVP status. The district court denied Baker's motion, and Baker appealed.

         ¶9 A division of the court of appeals agreed with Baker, concluding that: (1) a claim for PSCC is properly brought pursuant to the "not authorized by law" provision of Rule 35(a); (2) Leyva's holding was broad so any correction of an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 35(a) restarts the applicable statute of limitations for collateral attacks pursuant to Rule 35(c); and, consequently, (3) Baker's challenge to his SVP status was a timely, cognizable claim under Crim. P. 35(c). People v. Baker, 2017 COA 102, ΒΆΒΆ 36-41, ____ P.3d ____. ...


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