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State v. Granath

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

April 26, 2018

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Petitioner,
v.
WENDY GRANATH, Respondent.

          YU, J.

         The issue in this case is whether the duration of a domestic violence (DV) no-contact order entered by a court of limited jurisdiction is limited to the length of the underlying suspended sentence. The State appeals a published Court of Appeals decision that vacated a no-contact order and held that the district court lacked authority pursuant to RCW 10.99.050 to enter a no-contact order exceeding the duration of the underlying sentence. State v. Granath, 200 Wn.App. 26, 401 P.3d 405, review granted, 189 Wn.2d 1009, 402 P.3d 823 (2017). We affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are not disputed. A jury convicted Wendy Granath in King County District Court of two gross misdemeanor DV crimes-cyberstalking and violation of a DV no-contact order-based on e-mails she sent to her estranged husband. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 35; Pet. for Review at 2. In November 2012, Granath was sentenced to 364 days in jail with 334 days suspended for 24 months. CP at 35. As a condition of her suspended sentence, she was prohibited from contacting her estranged husband. The court issued a separate no-contact order pursuant to RCW 10.99.050 reflecting the directive not to contact her estranged husband. The judge did not enter an expiration date, and so, by the terms of the pattern form order, it expired by default five years later.

         Granath completed her sentence in December 2014. She thereafter moved to vacate the no-contact order on the basis that it ended when she was no longer subject to the underlying no-contact condition of the sentence. The district court denied the motion, stating it "had lawful authority to issue a separate order under [chapter] 10.99 [RCW], which is a stand-alone provision." Id. at 22. Granath appealed to the King County Superior Court, which affirmed the district court. Granath then sought discretionary review from the Court of Appeals, which reversed in a published opinion. It held that the district court did not have statutory authority to issue a no-contact order that lasted longer than the defendant's suspended sentence. Granath, 200 Wn.App. at 37-38. We granted review.[1] 189 Wn.2d 1009.

         ISSUE

         Whether RCW 10.99.050 provides a district court the authority to issue a DV no-contact order that lasts longer than the defendant's suspended sentence?

         ANALYSIS

         A. Overview of a district court's limited sentencing authority

         District courts are courts of limited jurisdiction created by the legislature. CONST, art. IV, §§ 1, 12; Smith v. Whatcom County Dist. Ct, 147 Wn.2d 98, 104, 52 P.3d 485 (2002). "The legislature has sole authority to prescribe their jurisdiction and powers." Smith, 147 Wn.2d at 104. To understand a district court's authority in this context, we review the relevant statutory grants of authority.

         The affirmative grant of subject matter jurisdiction in this case is RCW 3.66.060. It provides a district court jurisdiction that is "[c]oncurrent with the superior court of all misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors committed in their respective counties and of all violations of city ordinances." RCW 3.66.060. The statute also authorizes a district court to impose a fine of $5, 000 and a jail sentence of one year. Id.

         There is a specific legislative provision that extends a district court's jurisdiction over DV offenses for up to five years. RCW 3.66.068(1)(a) states in relevant part:

(1) A court has continuing jurisdiction and authority to suspend the execution of all or any part of its sentence upon stated terms, including installment payment of fines for a period not to exceed: (a) Five years after imposition of sentence for a defendant sentenced for a domestic violence offense ....

         This statute authorizes a district court to suspend all or part of a DV sentence for up to five years and impose sentencing conditions in its judgment and sentence.[2] If a defendant violates a condition of the sentence, then a district court may revoke the suspended sentence. RCW 3.66.069.

         The last statutory grant of authority that is relevant to this case is RCW 10.99.050(1), which authorizes a court to issue a no-contact order to "record[]" a no-contact condition it includes in the judgment and sentence. The statute states,

When a defendant is found guilty of a crime and a condition of the sentence restricts the defendant's ability to have contact with the victim, such condition shall be recorded and a written certified copy of that order shall be provided to the victim.

RCW 10.99.050(1) (emphasis added). This case requires us to determine whether RCW 10.99.050 authorizes a district court to issue a no-contact order that lasts longer than the sentence it imposes. Because resolution of this case requires statutory interpretation, our review is denovo. State v. Armendariz, 160 Wn.2d 106, 110, 156 P.3d 201 (2007).

         B. The plain language of RCW 10.99.050 resolves the issue presented

         We look to the statute's plain language to determine whether it addresses the duration of a no-contact order. Its plain meaning is determined by consulting "the statute in which the provision at issue is found, as well as related statutes or other provisions of the same act in which the provision is found." Dep't of Ecology v. Campbell & Gwinn, LLC, 146 Wn.2d 1, 10, 43 P.3d 4 (2002). If the legislature's intent is clear based on the plain language of the statute, "then the court must give effect to that plain meaning as an expression of legislative intent." Id. at 9-10.

         RCW 10.99.050 is silent on the duration of a no-contact order, and consulting other provisions of the same act does not help us understand the intended time span of the no-contact order. Other orders issued prior to sentencing pursuant to chapter 10.99 RCW have explicit termination provisions and therefore do not help us determine the duration of a postsentencing order. RCW 10.99.040(5) (a prefiling DV no-contact order expires at arraignment or within 72 hours if no charges are filed), (3) (a DV no-contact order entered or extended at arraignment terminates if the defendant is acquitted or the charges are dismissed).[3]The parties agree that the statute is silent on the order's duration, but each interprets the statute's silence differently.

         The State takes the position that RCW 10.99.050 "independently authorizes" a district court to issue a DV no-contact order so long as it imposes a no-contact condition of the sentence. Pet. for Review at 9. Other provisions of RCW 10.99.050 refer to no-contact orders as "issued" rather than "recorded, " and the State infers use of the word "issued" means the order stands independently of the underlying sentence condition. See, e.g., RCW 10.99.050(2)(a), (3). The State does not cite authority for this conclusion, but proceeds to make a public ...


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