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State v. Bacon

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

February 13, 2017

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Appellant,
v.
EVAN BACON, Respondent.

          TRICKEY, A.C.J.

         Evan Bacon, a juvenile, pleaded guilty to robbery in the second degree. The juvenile court declared that the standard range disposition would effectuate a manifest injustice. The court imposed a 65 week disposition, and suspended it while placing him on community supervision. The State appeals, arguing that declaring a manifest injustice does not give the juvenile court the authority to suspend a disposition. Because the legislature has authorized juvenile courts to suspend dispositions only in limited circumstances not applicable here, we reverse.

         FACTS

         In September 2015, Bacon took a woman's purse against her will and used force when they struggled over it. The woman fell and scraped her knees but did not suffer serious bodily injury. Bacon pleaded guilty to robbery in the second degree. Because of Bacon's criminal history, the standard range disposition was 52 to 65 weeks of confinement.

         At the disposition hearing, Bacon asked for a declaration of manifest injustice, because he was doing better, back in school, and living at home. The State and the probation officer recommended the standard range disposition. They argued that Bacon had done well in detention but had not done well when on supervision or parole.

         The court noted that Bacon had begun to make important changes in his life, but was still a "threat to the community."[1] Citing a preference to "keep youth in the community" when possible, the court granted a manifest injustice.[2] The court imposed a disposition of "65 to 65 weeks" of confinement, and suspended it, placing him instead on community supervision subject to a number of conditions.[3]

         The State appealed the disposition, arguing that the record did not support a declaration of manifest injustice and, even assuming the manifest injustice was proper, declaring a manifest injustice did not give the court the authority to suspend the disposition when Bacon was otherwise ineligible for a suspended disposition.

         While the State's appeal was pending before this court, the juvenile court revoked Bacon's suspended disposition because of his behavior while under community supervision. A commissioner of this court determined that the issue of whether the trial court had the authority to suspend a disposition here was moot. But the commissioner nonetheless ruled that we should address the issue because it is a matter of continuing and substantial public interest that is likely to recur in future cases.

         Accordingly, the parties filed revised briefs on the sole issue of whether the trial court erred by suspending Bacon's manifest injustice disposition.

         ANALYSIS

         Authority to Suspend Dispositions

         The State argues that the juvenile court erred when it suspended Bacon's disposition because it lacked the authority to do so under the Juvenile Justice Act of 1977 (JJA), chapter 13.40 RCW. Bacon responds that, once the court has declared a manifest injustice, it may suspend a juvenile offender's sentence even if it could not usually do so under the JJA. We agree with the State.

         Courts, including juvenile courts, "do not have inherent authority to suspend sentences." State v. A.S.. 116 Wn.App. 309, 311-12, 65 P.3d 676 (2003). If the legislature has enacted a statute that grants a court the power to suspend a disposition, the court must follow the statute's terms. State v. Clark. 91 Wn.App. 581, 585, 958 P.2d 1028(1998). Otherwise, the court's actions are void. Clark. 91 Wn.App. at 585.

         When a statute is unambiguous, this court assumes the legislature "means exactly what it says." A.S.. 116 Wn.App. at 312. This court reviews the construction of a ...


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