From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

People v. Arellano

Supreme Court of Colorado. En Banc
Jul 1, 1974
185 Colo. 280 (Colo. 1974)

Summary

construing the predecessor to section 18-1-410(f) and noting that Herrera "drew the line of finality beyond which further judicial proceedings could not be maintained"

Summary of this case from People v. Cali

Opinion

No. 25802

Decided July 1, 1974. Rehearings denied July 22, 1974 and July 29, 1974.

Defendant was convicted of possession of narcotic drugs and was sentenced to the state penitentiary. After affirmance on appeal, defendant moved for reduction of his sentence — to conform to the new penalty provisions — pursuant to 1971 Perm. Supp., C.R.S. 1963, 40-1-510(1)(f) and trial court denied the motion.

Affirmed

1. PARDON AND PAROLERelief — Sentence — Conviction — Exhaustion — Appellate Remedies — Executive. After conviction and exhaustion of appellate remedies, relief from a sentence validly imposed may not be obtained through the judiciary, but rather the remedy therefor lies in the executive department by way of commutation.

2. CRIMINAL LAWReduction of Sentence — Exhausted — Conviction — Final — — Court — Lack of Jurisdiction — Relief. Where defendant had exhausted his appellate remedy of appeal and his conviction had become final before he filed his motion for reduction of his sentence to conform to new penalty provisions in accordance with statutory amendment which was passed while his appeal was pending, held, under these circumstances, court was without jurisdiction to entertain defendant's motion for relief.

3. Sentencing — Equal Protection — Sanctions in Effect. In the context of sentencing for criminal offenses, equal protection requires only that those who have committed the same offense shall be subject to the same criminal sanctions in effect at the time the offense was committed.

4. Legislature — Authority — Define — Crimes — Prescribe — Punishment — — Maintain — Order. The legislature has inherent authority to define crimes and to prescribe punishment for criminal violations; and this is part of the sovereign power of the state to maintain social order.

5. Legislature — Prescribe — Penalty — Change — Adjust — Necessities. Just as the legislature may initially prescribe a penalty for a criminal violation, it may also, in its wisdom, from time to time change and adjust penalties as social necessities may mandate.

6. CONSTITUTIONAL LAWEqual Protection — Equal Punishment — Same Time Frame — Same Criminal Sanctions. Equal protection does not compel that equal punishment be imposed regardless of the time frame within which the crime was committed; rather, it requires only that those offenders within the same time frame be subjected to the same criminal sanctions.

Appeal from the District Court of the City and County of Denver, Honorable Gerald E. McAuliffe, Judge.

John P. Moore, Attorney General, John E. Bush, Deputy, James S. Russell, Assistant, for plaintiff-appellee.

Rollie R. Rogers, State Public Defender, James F. Dumas, Jr., Chief Deputy, Lee Belstock, Deputy, for defendant-appellant.


On rehearing, the Court's original opinion in this case, announced February 19, 1974, is withdrawn.

Appellant Eugene E. Arellano was convicted of possession of narcotic drugs in violation of C.R.S. 1963, 48-5-2, and, on March 14, 1969, was sentenced to the state penitentiary. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed in People v. Arellano, 177 Colo. 286, 493 P.2d 1362.

While appellant's appeal was pending, the statute under which he was sentenced was amended effective July 1, 1971, to substantially reduce the penalty for violation thereof. 1971 Perm. Supp., C.R.S. 1963, 48-5-20(7)(a).

After affirmance on appeal, in August of 1972, appellant, pursuant to 1971 Perm. Supp., C.R.S. 1963, 40-1-510(1)(f), moved for reduction of his sentence to conform to the new penalty provisions. The trial court denied the motion. We affirm.

In People v. Herrera, 183 Colo. 155, 516 P.2d 626, this Court declared unconstitutional section 40-1-510(1)(f) as an invasion of the Governor's exclusive power to grant a commutation after conviction, as provided in Article IV, Section 7, of the Colorado Constitution, and also as a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers as embodied in Article III of the state constitution.

Appellant urges that even without the benefit of section 40-1-510(1)(f) mitigation of penalties may be had where, as here, the amendatory legislation took effect during the pendency of an appeal. In support of this position, he relies upon In re Estrada, 63 Cal. 2d 740, 48 Cal. Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948; People v. Odom, 8 Ill. App. 3d 227, 289 N.E.2d 663; People v. Oliver, 1 N.Y.2d 152, 151 N.Y.S.2d 367, 134 N.E.2d 197; State v. Pardon, 272 N.C. 72, 157 S.E.2d 698; Belt v. Turner, 25 Utah 2d 230, 479 P.2d 791.

[1,2] We do not find the foregoing authorities persuasive in the present circumstances. None of these cases involved the constitutional rule announced in People v. Herrera, supra — that after conviction and exhaustion of appellate remedies, relief from a sentence validly imposed may not be obtained through the judiciary, but rather the remedy therefor lies in the executive department by way of commutation. In Herrera, we drew the line of finality beyond which further judicial proceedings could not be maintained. Here, appellant had exhausted his appellate remedy of appeal and his conviction had become final before he had filed his motion. The court, therefore, was without jurisdiction to entertain his motion for relief.

Appellant further argues that if relief from his sentence is denied him, he is effectively deprived of his constitutional right to equal protection of the laws. He claims that the amendment to the penalty provision of the statute under which he was convicted, if applied only to those who are tried, convicted and sentenced after July 1, 1971, will result in an invidious discrimination against him, and others who were tried, convicted and sentenced prior to July 1, 1971. We do not agree.

[3] In the context of sentencing for criminal offenses, equal protection requires only that those who have committed the same offense shall be subject to the same criminal sanctions in effect at the time the offense was committed. See generally Truax v. Corrigan, 257 U.S. 312, 42 S.Ct. 124, 66 L.Ed. 256, 27 A.L.R. 375. In other words, those similarly situated must be guaranteed like treatment. Lee v. People, 170 Colo. 268, 460 P.2d 796.

[4-6] It is fundamental that the legislature has the inherent authority to define crimes and to prescribe punishment for criminal violations. This is a part of the sovereign power of the state to maintain social order. Just as the legislature may initially prescribe a penalty for a criminal violation, it may also, in its wisdom, from time to time change and adjust penalties as social necessities may mandate. Equal protection does not compel that equal punishment be imposed regardless of the time frame within which the crime was committed; rather, it requires only that those offenders within the same time frame be subjected to the same criminal sanctions. Jones v. Cupp, 452 F.2d 1091 (9th Cir. 1971); Comerford v. Commonwealth, 233 F.2d 294 (1st Cir. 1956); Mirenda v. Ulibarri, 351 F. Supp. 676 (C.D. Cal. 1972). We find appellant's contentions in this respect to be without merit.

We have considered appellant's argument based upon the savings clause, C.R.S. 1963, 135-4-7, and find it to be irrelevant and without merit.

The judgment is affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE ERICKSON concurs in the result only.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE PRINGLE and MR. JUSTICE DAY dissent.


Summaries of

People v. Arellano

Supreme Court of Colorado. En Banc
Jul 1, 1974
185 Colo. 280 (Colo. 1974)

construing the predecessor to section 18-1-410(f) and noting that Herrera "drew the line of finality beyond which further judicial proceedings could not be maintained"

Summary of this case from People v. Cali

construing the predecessor to section 18-1-410(f) and noting that Herrera "drew the line of finality beyond which further judicial proceedings could not be maintained"

Summary of this case from People v. Cali
Case details for

People v. Arellano

Case Details

Full title:The People of the State of Colorado v. Eugene E. Arellano

Court:Supreme Court of Colorado. En Banc

Date published: Jul 1, 1974

Citations

185 Colo. 280 (Colo. 1974)
524 P.2d 305

Citing Cases

People v. Cali

1994). Significantly, in the binding precedent, People v. Arellano, 185 Colo. 280, 524 P.2d 305 (1974), the…

People v. Cali

¶22 Indeed, we have long held that a trial court lacks the authority to apply amendatory legislation to a…