Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Bruch

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

March 19, 2015

The State of Washington , Respondent ,
v.
Matthew Bruch , Petitioner

Argued September 16, 2014

Elaine L. Winters (of Washington Appellate Project ), for petitioner.

Mark K. Roe, Prosecuting Attorney, and Seth A. Fine, Deputy, for respondent.

Ronda D. Larson, Assistant Attorney General, on behalf of Department of Corrections, amicus curiae.

AUTHOR: Justice Debra L. Stephens. WE CONCUR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen, Justice Charles W. Johnson, Justice Susan Owens, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, Justice Charles K. Wiggins, Justice Steven C. González. AUTHOR: Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud. WE CONCUR: Justice Mary I. Yu.

OPINION

Page 725

[182 Wn.2d 857] Stephens, J.

¶ 1 Matthew Bruch was convicted of two counts of second degree child molestation and two counts of third degree rape of a child. The trial court imposed a standard range sentence of 116 months of confinement and ordered community custody for a period of " at least 4 months, plus all accrued earned early release time at the time of release." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 7. Bruch challenges his sentence, arguing that the court-imposed term of community custody is indeterminate and may exceed the statutory requirement of three years of community custody required under RCW 9.94A.701(1). The Court of Appeals rejected Bruch's challenge. So do we.

¶ 2 We hold that Bruch's sentence complied with all statutory requirements. The trial court properly reduced the three-year term of community custody to a fixed, four months so that the total sentence did not exceed the applicable statutory maximum, consistent with RCW 9.94A.701(9). While the court recognized the Department of Corrections' (DOC) authority to transfer Bruch to community custody " in lieu of earned release time," as described under RCW 9.94A.729(5)(a), this did not render the sentence indeterminate. The statutory scheme contemplates that an offender might serve more time in community custody than imposed by the sentencing court under RCW 9.94A.701 if he earns early release pursuant to RCW 9.94A.729. There is no need for the trial court to amend Bruch's sentence to limit community custody to a maximum of three years. The statutes must be read together to assure that the trial court's intended sentence--a total term of 120 months--is not undermined by giving effect to the DOC's authority to transfer earned early release into community custody. Even assuming that RCW 9.94A.701(1) limits the period of community custody the DOC can supervise under RCW 9.94A.729(5), the judgment and sentence remains valid; it need not direct how the DOC will exercise its authority in accordance with all applicable provisions of the Sentencing Reform Act of 1981 (SRA), ch. 9.94A RCW. We affirm the Court of Appeals.

[182 Wn.2d 858] FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶ 3 On September 4, 2012, a jury convicted Bruch of two counts of second degree child molestation and two counts of third degree rape of a child. These offenses were committed sometime between January 26, 2007 and January 25, 2011. Then, as now, child molestation in the second degree was a class B felony punishable by a maximum term of 120 months, RCW 9A.44.086(2); RCW 9A.20.021(1)(b), and rape of a child in the third degree was a class C felony punishable by a maximum term of 60 months, RCW 9A.44.079(2); RCW 9A.20.021(1)(c).

¶ 4 Bruch's standard sentence range for child molestation in the second degree was 87 to 116 months. Consistent with the State's recommendation, the trial court sentenced Bruch to high-end, standard range sentences of 116 months of confinement for the child molestation counts and a concurrent 60 months for the rape of a child counts.

¶ 5 In addition to these prison terms, as a felony sex offender, Bruch is subject to a three-year term of community custody for his

Page 726

offense. RCW 9.94A.701(1). However, at the time of Bruch's sentencing, as now, the SRA prohibited trial courts from imposing a term of community custody that would, in combination with a defendant's term of confinement, exceed the statutory maximum for the crime. RCW 9.94A.505(5). Trial courts are required to " reduce[ ]" a term of community custody that, in combination with the term of confinement, may exceed the statutory maximum for the crime. RCW 9.94A.701(9). In order to avoid exceeding the 120-month statutory maximum for the combined term of confinement and community custody, the trial court sentenced Bruch to only four months of community custody: 120 months (the statutory maximum for a class B felony) minus 116 months (the term of confinement imposed).

¶ 6 The State wanted Bruch to receive the longest possible term of community custody in light of any earned early [182 Wn.2d 859] release time that he may acquire during his confinement. It therefore asked the trial court to include language to fill any early release Bruch earned on his 116-month term of confinement. Id. In its sentencing memorandum, the State argued that the trial court should employ " the following equation: Community Custody = [statutory maximum - (term of confinement - earned early release as determined by DOC)]." CP at 31 (brackets in original). The State argued that this would " result in a definite term of community custody," the duration of which " will be calculated by DOC depending on how well the defendant behaves in prison." Id. The State argued this was an appropriate sentence because (1) it is unknown how much early release time Bruch will earn and (2) such a sentence complies with State v. Boyd, 174 Wn.2d 470, 275 P.3d 321 (2012).

¶ 7 With respect to the child molestation count, the trial court imposed a community custody term of " at least 4 months, plus all accrued earned early release time at the time of release." CP at 7. Bruch appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred when it " did not impose a definite term of community custody as required by RCW 9.94A.701." Br. of Appellant at 28 (boldface omitted). He maintained that the only authorized community custody period was a fixed, four-month term. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court and held that transferring earned early release into community custody did not render Bruch's sentence indeterminate. State v. Bruch, noted at 179 Wn.App. 1012 (2014). We granted review to consider this issue. State v. Bruch, 180 Wn.2d 1014, 327 P.3d 54 (2014).

ANALYSIS

¶ 8 This case requires us to interpret multiple SRA provisions. Interpretation of the SRA is a question of law that we review de novo. State v. Jones, 172 Wn.2d 236, 242, 257 P.3d 616 (2011). When we interpret a statute, our [182 Wn.2d 860] " objective is to determine the legislature's intent." State v. Jacobs, 154 Wn.2d 596, 600, 115 P.3d 281 (2005). If the meaning of a statute is plain on its face, we " 'give effect to that plain meaning.'" Id. (quoting Dep't of Ecology v. Campbell & Gwinn, LLC, 146 Wn.2d 1, 9-10, 43 P.3d 4 (2002)). To determine the plain meaning of a statute, we look to the text, as well as " the context of the statute in which that provision is found, related provisions, and the statutory scheme as a whole." Id.

¶ 9 Bruch argues that the trial court erred by imposing a term of community custody that is indeterminate and may exceed three years, in violation of RCW 9.94A.701(1) and (9). Pet'r's Supp'l Br. at 4, 17. Relying on this court's decision in Boyd, Bruch contends that the trial court should have imposed a fixed, four-month term of community custody, rather than an indeterminate period tied to his accrued earned early release. Id. at 10, 16.

¶ 10 In analyzing this argument, it is helpful to review the SRA's recent history concerning community custody. Before the SRA was amended in 2009, it expressly required trial courts to impose range-based terms of community custody on certain offenders. See former RCW 9.94A.710(1), .712(5), .715(1) (2008). Under the former statute, trial courts were required to sentence offenders convicted of Bruch's crimes " to community custody for the ... range established under RCW 9.94A.850 or up to the period of earned early release awarded ... ,

Page 727

whichever is longer." Former RCW 9.94A.715(1) (emphasis added) While trial courts were responsible for imposing a range-based term of community custody, the DOC was required to " discharge the offender from community custody on a date determined by the department ... within the range or at the end of the period of earned release, whichever is later." Former RCW 9.94A.715(4) (emphasis added).

¶ 11 In some instances, the range specified by the trial court resulted in a combined total term of confinement and community custody that exceeded the statutory maximum [182 Wn.2d 861] for the crime. This court addressed this problem in In re Personal Restraint of Brooks, 166 Wn.2d 664, 668, 211 P.3d 1023 (2009), where it approved what later became known as the " Brooks notation." The Brooks notation is a provision in the judgment and sentence indicating that the combined term of confinement and community custody " shall not exceed the statutory maximum." Id. at 675. The Brooks court noted that former RCW 9.94A.715(1) required trial courts to impose a variable term of community custody--the applicable statutory range or the period of earned early release, whichever is longer--and that former RCW 9.94A.715(4) gave the DOC discretion to later specify the end-date of that term " within the confines outlined by both the court and the SRA." Id. at 671-72.

¶ 12 In a separate holding, the Brooks court determined that a sentence is not indeterminate under the SRA simply because an offender may earn early release credits. Id. at 674. The court reached this conclusion for several reasons. Relevant here, the court held that former RCW 9.94A.030(21), Laws of 2008, ch. 276, § 309, [1] " specifically states that a sentence is not rendered indeterminate by the fact that a defendant may earn early release credits." Brooks, 166 Wn.2d at 674. Further, the court reasoned that the SRA made it impossible for a trial court to know at the time of sentencing the exact amount of time to be served. Id.

¶ 13 In 2009, the legislature repealed former RCW 9.94A.715 and amended RCW 9.94A.701. Laws of 2009, ch. 28, § 42, ch. 375, § 5. This change eliminated the range-based scheme and required trial courts to impose fixed terms of community custody based on the offense committed. Id. It also eliminated the statute giving the DOC authority to determine the date that an offender would be discharged from community custody. Laws of 2009, ch. 28, § 42. Instead, the new legislation provided that a " term of community custody ... shall be reduced by the court whenever an [182 Wn.2d 862] offender's standard range term of confinement in combination with the term of community custody exceeds the statutory maximum for the crime ... ." Laws of 2009, ch. 375, § 5(8) (emphasis added). This provision is currently codified at RCW 9.94A.701(9). The legislature, however, did not modify the DOC's authority to transfer the earned early release of certain offenders into community custody, [2] nor did it modify RCW 9.94A.030(18) (" The fact that an offender through earned release can reduce the actual period of confinement shall not affect the classification of the sentence as a determinate sentence." ). See Laws of 2009, ch. 375, § 3(21).

A. Determinate Sentence

¶ 14 Bruch argues that his sentence is indeterminate because the trial court " added" a term of community custody " 'for the entire period of earned early release.'" Pet'r's Supp'l Br. at 10-11 (quoting State v. Winkle, 159 Wn.App. 323, 327, 245 P.3d 249 (2001)). Bruch suggests that the phrase " shall be reduced" in RCW 9.94A.701(9) means that the trial court, not the DOC, must determine the end date of any community custody. Bruch has the potential to earn up to one-third of early release on his 116-month term of confinement, which

Page 728

equals 382/3 months. RCW 9.94A.729(3)(e).[3] Under Bruch's view, he can serve no more than four months of community custody, although he may earn up to 382/3 months of community custody in lieu of early release from his 116-month term of confinement. We reject this view. A sentence is not indeterminate just because an offender may earn early release credits. RCW 9.94A.030(18). Because an offender may reduce his term of confinement through earned early release, the exact amount of time he [182 Wn.2d 863] will serve on community custody " can almost never be determined when the sentence is imposed by the court." Brooks, 166 Wn.2d at 674. But, his total sentence is set at no more than 116 months of confinement and no less than four months of community custody.

¶ 15 Here, the trial court followed RCW 9.94A.701(9) when it " reduced" Bruch's term of community custody from three years to four months to ensure the total combined sentence would not exceed the 120-month statutory maximum. Any community custody Bruch earns in lieu of early release is the result of RCW 9.94A.729(5), which provides the DOC authority to transfer a portion of confinement time into community custody in lieu of early release. It is not the result of the trial court's community custody term imposed under RCW 9.94A.701.

¶ 16 While the community custody sentencing statute, RCW 9.94A.701, no longer vests authority in the DOC to set the end date for a community custody term, the DOC still has significant authority to determine how long an offender will actually remain in confinement. See RCW 9.94A.729(1)(a) (" earned release time shall be for good behavior and good performance, as determined by the correctional agency having jurisdiction" ). Thus, trial courts still necessarily impose variable community custody periods in the sense that terms of confinement may later be shortened, within statutory limits, based on the offender's behavior and the DOC's policies. Id.

¶ 17 Bruch contends that under Boyd, 174 Wn.2d 470, the trial court, not the DOC, was required to reduce his term of community custody. Boyd, however, involved different circumstances. In Boyd, the trial court imposed a 54-month term of confinement for a class C felony and a fixed, 12-month term of community custody after the effective date of RCW 9.94A.701(9), resulting in a combined sentence that plainly exceeded the 60-month statutory maximum. Id. at 471. To prevent the aggregate sentence from exceeding the statutory maximum, the trial court included a [182 Wn.2d 864] Brooks notation in the judgment and sentence. Id. This court held that Boyd's sentence violated RCW 9.94A.701(9), notwithstanding the Brooks notation, because in cases ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.