In Hudson, we approved the trial court's finding that the "guidelines as we have them now are not binding but used as a tool."Summary of this case from Robinson v. Commonwealth
46301 No. 0978-88-1
Decided April 3, 1990
(1) Criminal Procedure — Sentencing — Voluntary Guidelines. — Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines do not violate Code Sec. 19.2-299.
(2) Criminal Procedure — Sentencing — Voluntary Guidelines. — In establishing sentencing ranges for particular offenses, the legislature has empowered courts with discretionary power to impose appropriate sentences; if the sentence is within the range set by the legislature, an appellate court will not interfere with the judgment.
(3) Criminal Procedure — Sentencing — Standard. — Code Sec. 19.2-299 provides that the presentence report shall include all relevant facts; a relevant fact may well include information concerning the average sentence imposed on other offenders convicted of similar crimes.
(4) Criminal Procedure — Sentencing — Standard. — By enacting Code Sec. 19.2-299, the legislature did not intend to limit the trial courts, when sentencing, only to information contained in a presentence report; when the sentence imposed by the trial court is within the statutory range established by the legislature, the use of Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines as a tool to assist the trial court does not violate Code Sec. 19.2-299.
Allan D. Zaleski (Robinson, Zaleski Lindsey, on brief), for appellant.
Eugene Murphy, Assistant Attorney General (Mary Sue Terry, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Defendant was convicted of statutory burglary and larceny. He argued that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion for the court to disregard the Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines developed by the circuit court pursuant to direction of the Supreme Court (Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk, Alfred W. Whitehurst, Judge).
The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the use of Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines does not conflict with Code Sec. 19.2-299.
Dennis Lee Hudson (appellant) appeals his bench trial conviction for statutory burglary and larceny. He argues that the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion to disregard the Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines being tested in a pilot program developed by six circuit court judges pursuant to the direction of the Virginia Supreme Court.
The Circuit Court of the City of Norfolk is one of the six courts specifically selected to test the guidelines.
(1) Immediately following his conviction, appellant moved for a presentence report as provided for in Code Sec. 19.2-299. At the presentence hearing appellant made the following objection:
I want to note an objection to the guidelines in general. I think that they are in violation of section 19.2-299 which relates to preparation and use of presentence reports by the Court . . . the Court should ignore the guidelines and not use them at all. . . . The section 19.2-299 covers the preparation and use of presentence reports. It says the purpose is to use [them] in order that the Court can be fully advised as to an appropriate sentence to be imposed. I seize on the word fully.
If the Court is fully advised by the presentence report and testimony at the hearing, it should not have anything else to use in the sentencing process. . . . The use of the guidelines is not authorized by statute. . . . by inference cannot be used by statute. Therefore, we would object to the attachment of the three guideline sheets to the presentence report.
In overruling appellant's motion, the trial court responded that the "guidelines as we have them now are not binding but used as a tool. Another factor that can be considered and the Judge can use as he sees fit." That response reflects the clear intent of the Judicial Sentencing Guidelines Oversight Committee, the committee of six circuit court judges and, significantly, that of the Supreme Court of Virginia. We reject appellant's contention that use of the voluntary sentencing guidelines violates Code Sec. 19.2-299; thus, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Appellant argues that the provisions of Code Sec. 19.2-299 prohibit the use of guidelines instituted by judicial edict, and asserts that if a pilot program involving sentencing guidelines is to be instituted it only can be by legislative action, not by judicial implementation. We find no such prohibition in Code Sec. 19.2-299. The portion of that statute relied on by appellant provides in pertinent part:
INVESTIGATIONS AND REPORTS BY PROBATION OFFICERS IN CERTAIN CASES. — A. when a person is tried upon a felony charge and is adjudged guilty of such charge, the court may, or on the motion of the defendant shall, before imposing sentence direct a probation officer of such court to thoroughly investigate and report upon the history of the accused and all other relevant facts, to fully advise the court so the court may determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed.
(2) The legislature has set the range for punishment for those who violate the larceny and statutory burglary code provisions. In establishing the sentencing range it endowed the trial court with inherent and discretionary power to impose appropriate sentences. Here, the sentence was not only within the range set by the legislature, it was less than the average sentence for the offense as specified by the guidelines. If the sentence is within the range set by the legislature, an appellate court will not interfere with the judgment. In McCann v. Commonwealth, 174 Va. 429, 448, 4 S.E.2d 768, 775 (1939), the Court said:
It is an established rule in this jurisdiction that when the punishment ascertained by the jury is within the limitations fixed by the statute governing the crime charged in the indictment, this court will not interfere with a judgment carrying into effect the verdict of the jury.
(3-4) Moreover, Code Sec. 19.2-299 provides that the probation officer shall, among other things, report "all other relevant facts." A relevant "other fact" may well be information concerning the average sentence imposed on others convicted of similar crimes. If, as appellant argues, the word "fully" contained in Code Sec. 19.2-299 means the trial court "should not have anything else to use in the sentencing process" except the probation report, the trial court would not be able to consider the evidence heard during the course of the trial. We hold that, in enacting Code Sec. 19.2-299, the legislature did not intend to thus limit the trial court. When the sentence imposed by the trial court is within the statutory range established by the legislature, use of the guidelines as a "tool" to assist the court in determining the appropriate sentence does not violate Code Sec. 19.2-299.
For the reasons stated, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
Koontz, C.J., and Coleman, J., concurred.