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State v. Upham

December 9, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, APPELLANT,
v.
RAMONA BRIDGETT UPHAM, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-1-05539-5. Date filed: 12/29/94. Judge signing: Hon. Richard A. Jones.

Authored by Pro Tem Judge. Concurring: William W. Baker, H. Joseph Coleman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Armstrong

ARMSTRONG, J.P.T.* -- The State of Washington appeals Ramona Bridgett Upham's exceptional sentence below the standard range for one count of first degree robbery to which she pleaded guilty. The State argues that the record fails to support the reasons given for the exceptional sentence, that those reasons do not justify a departure from the standard range, and that Upham's sentence is clearly too lenient. Because the findings of fact do not justify a sentence below the standard range as a matter of law, we reverse.

On August 19, 1994, 18-year-old Upham and her codefendant Summer Fider confronted Ingrid Mendez shortly after Mendez stepped off a Metro bus. Fider drew a 12-inch butcher knife and demanded that Mendez surrender her belongings. Upham and Fider then grabbed and tugged at Mendez' bags. Mendez gave the defendants her wallet.

Upham and Fider then fled by car. Mendez noted the license number and called the police, who located the car at a nearby residence. The police arrested Fider and Upham and took them to the robbery scene.

Mendez positively identified Fider and was almost certain that Upham was also one of her assailants. The police then executed a search warrant on the residence where they had found Fider and Upham. There they recovered Mendez' driver's license and a credit card, as well as the butcher knife hidden under a mattress in Upham's bedroom. Upham was the registered owner of the car used to escape the scene of the robbery.

On September 1, 1994, the State charged Upham with first degree robbery with a deadly weapon enhancement. Upham pleaded guilty in exchange for the State's agreement to move to dismiss the deadly weapon enhancement and recommend a sentence of 36 months. (Upham's standard range sentence would have been 36 to 48 months.) At sentencing, Upham requested an exceptional sentence of 12 months' incarceration with 60 days of that period converted to inpatient drug treatment. The trial court sentenced her to 12 months of confinement and required her to complete a substance abuse evaluation and 60 days of drug/alcohol treatment upon completion of her jail time.

The trial court's findings of fact in support of the exceptional sentence were that: (1) Upham's role was secondary to that of the prime offender; (2) Upham, suffering from a long-standing alcohol addiction, performed the offense while extremely intoxicated; (3) at the time Upham and Fider committed the robbery, Upham was desperate to provide for her handicapped child; and (4) the amount of financial duress that Upham experienced was exacerbated by her extreme youth and the influence of alcohol.

I

Standard of Review

A trial court may impose a sentence outside the standard range if it finds "substantial and compelling reasons" to do so. *fn1 An exceptional sentence may be reversed only if (1) the trial court's reasons for imposing the exceptional sentence are not supported by the record; (2) as a matter of law, those reasons do not justify an exceptional sentence; or (3) the sentence imposed is clearly excessive or clearly too lenient. *fn2 We apply the clearly erroneous standard when reviewing the trial court's findings under the first prong of the test. *fn3 Findings of fact are clearly erroneous "only if no substantial evidence supports [the trial court's] Conclusion." *fn4 The second prong, whether factual findings justify an exceptional sentence, is a legal issue we review de novo. *fn5 A two-part test governs this inquiry: first, whether the Legislature necessarily considered the mitigating factor in establishing the standard sentencing range; and second, whether the mitigating factor is sufficiently substantial and compelling to distinguish the crime in question from others in the same category. *fn6 Finally, we review the length of an exceptional sentence for an abuse of discretion. *fn7

"A trial court abuses its discretion only when its decision is manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds." *fn8

II

Intoxicat ...


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