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Double Jeopardy Clause: The Double Jeopardy Clause Prevents The Imposition Of Post Release Supervision (PRS) At Re-sentencing


double jeopardy clause prevents imposition of PRS appeals

People v. Williams

14 NY3d 198

New York Court of Appeals

Decided on: February 23, 2010

The Double Jeopardy Clause Prevents The Imposition of PRS At Sentencing

Summary: Defendants Williams, Hernandez, Lewis, Marks and Hernandez raised a variety of statutory and constitutional issues regarding resentencing under Correctional Law § 601-d. In each of these cases, Defendants’ received determinate sentences that did not include a term of PRS (post release supervision). Defendants each served their sentences of imprisonment and have been released from prison and back into the community. Each Defendant violated terms of PRS after being released from prison. The sentencing courts were notified by by DOCS (department of correctional services), of its failure to properly impose PRS and stated that the Defendants’ were designated persons for the purpose of resentencing. The Defendants’ contend that the inherent authority of sentencing courts to correct illegal sentences is a violation of The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment and violates CPL 380.10 and CPL 440.40

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Issue: Whether CPL 380.30, CPL 440.40, Correction Law §601-d and the Double Jeopardy Clause are impediments to imposing post release supervision at resentencing on a Defendant who has completed the determinate terms of imprisonment and has been released from custody.

Holding: The Court of Appeals held that the Defendants’ did not have a statutory impediment to the correction of the illegal sentences that were originally imposed. CPL §440.10 allows the People to move to set aside an invalid sentence within one year of its imposition but does not impose a one-year limitation on a court’s authority to rectify an illegal sentence. Sentencing Courts have an inherent ability to correct its own errors.

However, the Court of Appeals held there was a Constitutional Impediment to re-sentencing. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Federal Constitution prohibits re-sentencing proceedings after Defendants are released from prison, and after completing their determinate terms of imprisonment.

Facts: In People v. Darrel Williams, Defendant agreed to enter a guilty plea to assault in the second degree in exchange for a promised prison sentence to three years, to be followed by three years of post release supervision. The plea was accepted by the court but PRS was never formally pronounced during the sentencing proceedings. After Defendant was released, he was re-incarcerated for violating PRS DOCS notified the court of its failure to impose PRS. The court released Williams on the rationale that he could have not violated PRS before it was a proper component of his sentence. The Appellate Division affirmed and the Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal.

     In People v. Craig Lewis, Defendant declined to plead guilty to burglary, assault, and criminal contempt and exercised his right to a jury trial. The sentencing court ordered an aggregate prison sentence of five years but did not impose PRS. DOCS administratively added PRS and, after Lewis was released from confinement, the sentencing court was notified that Lewis was a designated person qualifying for resentencing pursuant to Correction Law § 601-d. Lewis objected. The Appellate Division affirmed and the Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal.

     In Matter of Echevarria v. Marks, Defendant plead guilty to first-degree rape in return for an aggregate prison sentence of five years. PRS was not discussed during the plea proceeding and it was not made part of the sentence, although defense counsel referenced PRS during the sentencing proceeding. Before Echevarria was released from prison, he signed a DOCS certificate acknowledging a term of PRS. Thereafter, he violated the terms of PRS on several occasions and was returned to prison. Petitioner commenced a CPLR article 78 proceeding against the sentencing Judge in the nature of prohibition to preclude resentencing on jurisdictional and Constitutional grounds. The Appellate Division held that even if resentencing was beyond the courts jurisdiction; Echevarria could not pursue discretionary prohibition relief because he had an adequate remedy at law: a direct appeal from his resentencing. The Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal.

    In People v. Edwin Rodriguez, Defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary in exchange for seven years’ imprisonment. PRS was not discussed during his plea allocution or at sentencing. DOCS later informed Rodriguez that he was required to serve five years of PRS and he was conditionally released from prison. After being released, he was arrested for violating PRS. Rodriguez rejected the court’s offer to withdraw his guilty plea, raised no objection to the imposition of PRS and was resentenced to the original prison term, with a five year term of PRS attached. The Appellate Division affirmed and the Court of Appeals granted leave to Appeal.

   In People v. Efrain Hernandez, Defendant pleaded guilty to burglary in the second degree and was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment. PRS was not discussed during the plea proceeding or at sentencing. DOCS administratively imposed five years of PRS and Hernandez was conditionally released from prison. He violated PRS and was sent back to prison. DOCS notified the sentencing court that Hernandez was a designated person for the purposed of resentencing but he opposed resentencing on statutory and constitutional grounds. The court held that the sentence was illegal without a term of PRS because Defendant had a reasonable expectation of finality once DOCS informed him that PRS was required. Hernandez subsequently was resentenced to his original prison term plus five years of PRS. The Appellate Division affirmed and the Court of Appeals granted leave to Appeal.

Legal Analysis: The Court of Appeals looked at five cases that raised a variety of statutory and constitutional issued regarding resentencing under Correction Law § 601-d. In each of these cases, Defendants received determinate sentences that did not include a term of PRS and where DOCS initiated resentencing proceedings under Correction Law §601-d so that PRS could be formally pronounced in each case. The Court of Appeals held there was a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Federal Constitution because the resentencing proceedings to impose PRS occurred after they were released from prison and after completing their terms of imprisonment. The Court further held that the imposition of PRS was in violation of Defendants’ expectation of finality.

             The Court held that the Legislature sought to deal with the significant number of incarcerated individuals whose status had been affected by the Catu and Garner/Sparber decisions. Section 70.85 was enacted to address cases in which a determinate sentence was imposed and was required by law to include a term of post-release supervision, but the court did not explicitly state such a term when pronouncing sentence. The statute allows a resentencing court to re-impose the originally pronounced determinate prison sentence without PRS. This is only if the District Attorney consents to the re-sentencing without a term of PRS. In addition, section § 601-d of the Correction Law was added to permit DOCS to notify the sentencing courts that PRS had not been properly imposed in certain cases and to have these Defendants returned to the original sentencing courts for modification of their sentences to include PRS.

However, the Courts of Appeals has declined the applicability of Penal Law § 70.85 and held that the issue of whether the deficiency in the plea allocution can be rectified by granting Defendant a determinate sentence without imposing a term of PRS should be determined by the court in the first instance. This, the Court of Appeals held, gives the People the opportunity to litigate their argument regarding the applicability of Penal Law § 70.85, and for Defendant to assert any constitutional challenges to the operation of the statue.

           In these cases, Defendants’ proclaim several statutory challenges to the imposition of PRS in their resentencing proceeding. Defendants were aware that sentencing courts have the inherent power to correct illegal sentences, however, they contend that the authority cannot be exercised more than one year after the declaration of the original sentence under CPL 440.40. Defendants claim that such re-sentencings are further subject to the prohibition in CPL 380.30, against unreasonable delays. They further argue that Correction Law § 601-d allows a resentencing court the option to decline to resentence a Defendant even if the People do not so consent, and that the failure of a sentencing court to consider this option constitutes an abuse of discretion against imposing PRS.

As a general principle, the Court of Appeals held that a sentence cannot be changed once a Defendant begins to serve it; however, this applies only if the sentence is in accordance with law, CPL 430.10. The Court of Appeals held that sentencing courts have the inherent authority to correct illegal sentences. PRS is a mandatory component of a sentence for a crime to be punishable by a determinate prison term, Penal Law § 70.45; there is no dispute that Defendants’ original sentences that did not impose terms of PRS were illegal.

Defendants’ argued that the sentencing courts lost jurisdiction to resentence them under CPL 380.30 due to the length of the delays between the original sentencing and the resentencing’s proceedings. The Court of Appeals held that Defendants were resentenced within a reasonable time after DOCS notified the courts that these Defendants were designated under Correction Law § 601-d so that PRS could be formally pronounced in each case.

          In regards to the Constitutional impediments to imposing PRS at resentencing on a Defendant who has completed the terms of imprisonment and has been released to the community, the Court of Appeals held that there was a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Defendants’ argue that once they were freed from confinement, they were entitled to a legitimate expectation of finality in the sentences that had been originally issued by the sentencing courts. If a legitimate expectation of finality attached, further Governmental supervision in the form of PRS amounted to the imposition of multiple punishments which is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment states that no person shall “be subject for the same offense to be twice out in jeopardy of life or limb”. The United States Supreme Court has construed this Clause to cover three protections. 1.) the right to be free from a second trial following an acquittal for the same crime; 2.) the right to be free from a second trial following a conviction for the same offense; and 3.) the right not to be punished more than once for the same crime.

The U.S Supreme Court relied on United States v. DiFrancesco 449 US 117 1980. There the Court held that the prosecution against multiple punishments prevents a sentence from being increased once the Defendant has a legitimate expectation in the finality of the sentence. Because Federal law allowed the Government to request that the sentence be set aside for appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that the Defendant’s expectation of finality did not attach until the Government’s appeal is concluded or the time to appeal has expired. In these cases, the correction of the illegal sentences did not occur until after the expiration of the People’s time to seek statutory remedy. Although the U.S Supreme Court has yet to weigh the legitimate expectation of finality principle in a situation akin to the matters presented here, the Federal Courts of Appeals have considered similar issues in a context related to PSR.

Some courts have held that a reasonable expectation of finality arises upon completion of the imposed sentence, resulting in the attachment of jeopardy precluding resentencing. Once a Defendant fully serves a sentence on a particular crime, the Double Jeopardy Clause’s bar on multiple punishments prevents any attempt to increase thereafter a sentence for that crime, United States v. Daddino, 5, F3d 262, 265, 7th Cir 1993, unless the Government’s time to seek correction of the sentence remains pending at the time of release.

The Court of Appeals held that sentencing is a uniquely judicial responsibility. Thus, the administrative imposition by DOCS of any additional penalty other than that issued by the sentencing court is a nullity. It cannot negate a Defendant’s reasonable expectation that, once completed, the imposed sentence will not be increased. State law permitted Defendants’ release after having served substantial portions of their determinate prison terms. At that point, they could not have been re-incarcerated for a potential violation of PSR because a court had not validly required PSR in the first instance. To summarize, once a Defendant is released from custody and returns to the community after serving the period of incarceration that was ordered by the sentencing court, and at the time to appeal the sentence has been expired or the appeal has been finally determined, there is a legitimate expectation of finality on that sentence.

The Double Jeopardy Clause prevents a court from modifying the sentence to include a period of PSR. And illegal under Penal Law as well. Petitioner Echevarria, unlike the other Defendants, sought to prevent resentencing by commencing an article 78 seeking prohibition relief. The Court of Appeals held that there was no need to seek prohibition relief before the court determined the lawfulness of the sentence that was imposed or whether it would accept the served sentence without a term of PRS. Echevarria’s article 78 petition was therefore dismissed.

Accordingly, in Williams, Hernandez, Lewis, and Rodriguez, the orders of the Appellate Division should be reversed, the resentences vacated and the original sentences reinstated. In the matter of Echevarria, the judgment of the Appellate Division should be affirmed.


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