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People v. Comer

Supreme Court of Michigan.
Jun 23, 2017
500 Mich. 278 (Mich. 2017)

Summary

holding that failing to order lifetime electronic monitoring that is statutorily mandated renders a sentence invalid

Summary of this case from People v. Boyce

Opinion

No. 152713.

06-23-2017

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Justin Timothy COMER, Defendant–Appellant.

Bill Schuette, Attorney General, Aaron D. Lindstrom, Solicitor General, Michael D. Wendling, Prosecuting Attorney, and Hilary B. Georgia, Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people. State Appellate Defender (by Jacqueline C. Ouvry) for defendant. Kym L. Worthy, Prosecuting Attorney, Jason W. Williams, Chief of Research, Training, and Appeals, and Timothy A. Baughman, Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Amici Curiae, for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. Michael Wendling, President of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, David E. Gilbert, Prosecuting Attorney, and Jennifer Kay Clark, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Amici Curiae, for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.


Bill Schuette, Attorney General, Aaron D. Lindstrom, Solicitor General, Michael D. Wendling, Prosecuting Attorney, and Hilary B. Georgia, Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for the people.

State Appellate Defender (by Jacqueline C. Ouvry) for defendant.

Kym L. Worthy, Prosecuting Attorney, Jason W. Williams, Chief of Research, Training, and Appeals, and Timothy A. Baughman, Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Amici Curiae, for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

Michael Wendling, President of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, David E. Gilbert, Prosecuting Attorney, and Jennifer Kay Clark, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Amici Curiae, for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

OPINION

Viviano, J.

We address whether the trial court's failure to impose lifetime electronic monitoring as a part of defendant's sentence for criminal sexual conduct in the first-degree (CSC–I) rendered defendant's sentence invalid and, if so, whether the trial court could correct the invalid sentence on its own initiative 19 months after the original judgment of sentence had entered. We hold that defendant's sentence was invalid because MCL 750.520b(2)(d) required the trial court to sentence defendant to lifetime electronic monitoring. We further hold that under MCR 6.435 and MCR 6.429, the trial court erred by correcting defendant's invalid sentence on its own initiative absent a motion from either party. In lieu of granting leave to appeal, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part, reverse in part, vacate the April 29, 2013 judgment of sentence, and remand this case to the trial court to reinstate the October 8, 2012 judgment of sentence.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In 2011, defendant, Justin Comer, was charged with CSC–I and first-degree home invasion stemming from an incident involving a 48-year-old woman. He pleaded guilty to CSC–I and second-degree home invasion. On October 3, 2011, former St. Clair Circuit Court Judge James Adair sentenced defendant to concurrent prison terms of 51 months to 18 years for the CSC–I conviction and 51 months to 15 years for the second-degree home invasion conviction. The judgment of sentence included a line to be checked by the trial court, indicating: "The defendant is subject to lifetime monitoring under MCL 750.520n." This line was not checked, and the trial court did not otherwise indicate that defendant was subject to lifetime electronic monitoring.

Defendant sought leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, challenging the scoring of several offense variables. In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Court of Appeals vacated defendant's CSC–I sentence and remanded for resentencing based on a scoring error. Thereafter, on October 8, 2012, Judge Adair resentenced defendant, reducing his minimum sentence for both convictions to 42 months. The second judgment of sentence also included the same unchecked line referring to lifetime electronic monitoring and omitted any other reference to that punishment.

People v. Comer, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered June 29, 2012 (Docket No. 309402).

On January 29, 2013, the Michigan Department of Corrections notified the trial court by letter that, pursuant to People v. Brantley , defendant's sentence should have included lifetime electronic monitoring. Defendant objected, arguing that Brantley did not apply and that the prosecution's failure to bring a motion to correct defendant's sentence precluded resentencing. At a hearing on April 29, 2013, Judge Adair's successor, Judge Michael West, ruled that defendant's guilty plea was "defective" because defendant was not advised about lifetime electronic monitoring. Judge West declared that he would not proceed further with the plea being defective. He rejected defendant's argument that the omission of lifetime electronic monitoring could only be corrected pursuant to a timely motion to correct an invalid sentence. The trial court offered defendant an opportunity to withdraw his plea or to allow the plea to stand while acceding to the lifetime electronic monitoring requirement. Defendant declined to withdraw his plea. Thereafter, the trial court signed a new judgment of sentence retaining the term of incarceration previously imposed and adding: "Lifetime GPS upon release from prison."

People v. Brantley, 296 Mich.App. 546, 823 N.W.2d 290 (2012). In Brantley, the Court of Appeals held that any defendant convicted of CSC–I under MCL 750.520b must be ordered to submit to lifetime electronic monitoring. Id. at 559, 823 N.W.2d 290.

The prosecution conceded at oral argument that neither party filed a motion to correct an invalid sentence under MCR 6.429.

Capitalization altered.

Defendant again sought leave to appeal. After the Court of Appeals denied defendant's delayed application for leave to appeal, we remanded the case to that Court for consideration as on leave granted. On remand, the Court of Appeals affirmed defendant's sentence in a published opinion. Bound by Brantley , the Court of Appeals held that defendant was subject to lifetime electronic monitoring when he was first sentenced in 2011. Because defendant's sentence did not include lifetime electronic monitoring, the Court of Appeals concluded that his sentence was invalid. Next, the Court of Appeals addressed whether the trial court had the authority to correct defendant's sentence. Relying on its prior decision in People v. Harris , the Court of Appeals held that "the trial court was empowered to correct defendant's invalid sentence without time limitation."

People v. Comer, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered January 27, 2014 (Docket No. 318854).

People v. Comer, 497 Mich. 957, 858 N.W.2d 462 (2015).

People v. Comer, 312 Mich.App. 538, 540, 879 N.W.2d 306 (2015).

Id. at 544, 879 N.W.2d 306.

Id.

People v. Harris, 224 Mich.App. 597, 569 N.W.2d 525 (1997). In Harris, the Court of Appeals held that a motion for resentencing is not a prerequisite for a trial court to correct an invalid sentence under MCR 6.429(A) and that the rule does not set time limits with respect to a trial court's authority to correct an invalid sentence. Id. at 601, 569 N.W.2d 525.

Comer, 312 Mich.App. at 545, 879 N.W.2d 306.

Judge GLEICHER concurred in the result but asserted that Harris was wrongly decided because, in her view, MCR 6.429 only permits a court to correct an invalid sentence after a party has filed a motion seeking that relief. She noted that no such motion had been filed by either party. But for Harris , she would have held that the trial court lacked the authority to correct the mistake in defendant's sentence.

Id. at 546–547, 879 N.W.2d 306 ( Gleicher , P.J., concurring).

Id. at 547, 879 N.W.2d 306.

Id. at 549, 879 N.W.2d 306.

Defendant sought leave to appeal in this Court. We scheduled oral argument on the application, directing the parties to address:

(1) whether the defendant's original sentence for first-degree criminal sexual conduct was rendered invalid because it did not include lifetime electronic monitoring, pursuant to MCL 750.520b(2)(d), i.e., whether MCL 750.520n requires that the defendant, who pled guilty to MCL 750.520b(1)(c), be sentenced to lifetime electronic monitoring, compare People v. Brantley , 296 Mich.App. 546[, 823 N.W.2d 290] (2012), with People v. King , 297 Mich.App. 465[, 824 N.W.2d 258] (2012) ; and (2) if so, whether the trial court was authorized to amend the defendant's judgment of sentence on the court's own initiative twenty months after the original sentencing, in the absence of a motion filed by any party. See MCR 6.429 ; MCR 6.435.[ ]

People v. Comer, 499 Mich. 888, 876 N.W.2d 581 (2016).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The proper interpretation and application of statutes and court rules is a question of law, which this Court reviews de novo. When interpreting statutes, we begin with the statute's plain language. In doing so, we examine the statute as a whole, reading individual words and phrases in the context of the entire legislative scheme. We must give effect to every word, phrase, and clause and avoid an interpretation that would render any part surplusage or nugatory. When the statute's language is unambiguous, the statute must be enforced as written. These same legal principles govern the interpretation of court rules.

People v. Lee, 489 Mich. 289, 295, 803 N.W.2d 165 (2011).

Madugula v. Taub, 496 Mich. 685, 696, 853 N.W.2d 75 (2014).

Id.

Johnson v. Recca, 492 Mich. 169, 177, 821 N.W.2d 520 (2012).

Pirgu v. United Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 499 Mich. 269, 278, 884 N.W.2d 257 (2016).

III. ANALYSIS

A. DEFENDANT IS SUBJECT TO LIFETIME ELECTRONIC MONITORING

We first address whether defendant is subject to lifetime electronic monitoring by virtue of his CSC–I conviction for a sexual penetration that occurred under circumstances involving the commission of another felony. Punishment for this offense is governed by MCL 750.520b(2), which provides:

(2) Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree is a felony punishable as follows:

(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b) and (c), by imprisonment for life or for any term of years.

(b) For a violation that is committed by an individual 17 years of age or older against an individual less than 13 years of age by imprisonment for life or any term of years, but not less than 25 years.

(c) For a violation that is committed by an individual 18 years of age or older against an individual less than 13 years of age, by imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole if the person was previously convicted of a violation of this section or section 520c, 520d, 520e, or 520g committed against an individual less than 13 years of age or a violation of law of the United States, another state or political subdivision substantially corresponding to a violation of this section or section 520c, 520d, 520e, or 520g committed against an individual less than 13 years of age.

(d) In addition to any other penalty imposed under subdivision (a) or (b), the court shall sentence the defendant to lifetime electronic monitoring under section 520n.

MCL 750.520n addresses lifetime electronic monitoring. Subsection (1) provides:

A person convicted under section 520b or 520c for criminal sexual conduct committed by an individual 17 years old or older against an individual less than 13 years of age shall be sentenced to lifetime electronic monitoring as provided under section 85 of the corrections code of 1953, 1953 PA 232, MCL 791.285.

We begin, as we must, with the statutory language. Section 520b(2) governs the punishment imposed for all persons convicted of CSC–I. The first three subdivisions address the terms of imprisonment imposed for CSC–I. Generally, CSC–I is punishable by imprisonment for life or any term of years, with two exceptions. Under the first exception, CSC–I offenses committed by an individual 17 years of age or older against an individual less than 13 years of age are also subject to a 25–year mandatory minimum sentence. The second exception, which is not at issue here, specifies that certain repeat offenders must be imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole.

In addition to imprisonment, the Legislature has imposed lifetime electronic monitoring as an additional punishment for a CSC–I conviction. Under § 520b(2)(d), the trial court shall sentence a defendant to lifetime electronic monitoring as provided by § 520n "[i]n addition to any other penalty imposed under subdivision (a) or (b)...." The disjunctive term "or" signals that there are two circumstances in which lifetime electronic monitoring must be imposed under MCL 750.520b(2). Lifetime electronic monitoring must be imposed (1) when a defendant receives a sentence of life in prison or any term of years under § 520b(2)(a); or (2) when a defendant also receives a mandatory minimum sentence under § 520b(2)(b) because the crime was "committed by an individual 17 years of age or older against an individual less than 13 years of age." Thus, the Legislature has mandated lifetime electronic monitoring for all CSC–I sentences except when the defendant is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole under § 520b(2)(c). To conclude otherwise, as defendant urges, and limit lifetime electronic monitoring only to sentences imposed under § 520b(2)(b) would impermissibly render the Legislature's reference in § 520b(2)(d) to "any other penalty imposed under subdivision (a)" nugatory.

People v. Cole, 491 Mich. 325, 336, 817 N.W.2d 497 (2012).

The Legislature's use of the term "shall" indicates that this is a mandatory directive. Fradco, Inc. v. Dep't of Treasury, 495 Mich. 104, 114, 845 N.W.2d 81 (2014).

See People v. Kowalski, 489 Mich. 488, 499, 803 N.W.2d 200 (2011). "Or" is a disjunctive term used to indicate a disunion, a separation, an alternative. Id. at 499 n. 11, 803 N.W.2d 200.

In Brantley, the panel erroneously stated that "any defendant convicted of CSC–I under MCL 750.520b, regardless of the age of the defendant or the age of the victim, must be ordered to submit to lifetime electronic monitoring." Brantley, 296 Mich.App. at 559, 823 N.W.2d 290 (emphasis added). Because § 520b(2)(d) omits any reference to Subdivision (c), the lifetime electronic monitoring requirement does not apply to individuals sentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole under that subdivision. See People v. Johnson, 298 Mich.App. 128, 135–136, 826 N.W.2d 170 (2012).

See Johnson, 492 Mich. at 177, 821 N.W.2d 520. We reject defendant's argument that this interpretation renders the phrase "under section 520n" in § 520b(2)(d) meaningless. To the contrary, § 520n provides that defendants sentenced to lifetime electronic monitoring under §§ 520b or 520c are subject to the Department of Corrections' lifetime electronic monitoring program established by MCL 791.285. See People v. Kern, 288 Mich.App. 513, 520, 794 N.W.2d 362 (2010). Section 520n also prohibits certain acts or omissions by individuals sentenced to lifetime electronic monitoring and provides the punishment for such violations.

Reading § 520b(2)(d) in the context of the entire legislative scheme similarly demonstrates the Legislature's intent to mandate lifetime electronic monitoring for all CSC–I sentences in which the defendant has not been sentenced to life without parole. Section 520b(2)(d) is located in Chapter LXXVI of the Michigan Penal Code, MCL 750.1 et seq . This chapter is titled "Rape" and sets forth the elements and punishments for offenses involving criminal sexual conduct. Immediately following § 520b is § 520c, which addresses criminal sexual conduct in the second degree (CSC–II). Similar to sentences for CSC–I, the Legislature has also mandated that courts impose lifetime electronic monitoring as part of CSC–II sentences, albeit in more limited circumstances. The relevant provision, MCL 750.520c(2)(b), provides:

In addition to the penalty specified in subdivision (a), the court shall sentence the defendant to lifetime electronic monitoring under section 520n if the violation involved sexual contact committed by an individual 17 years of age or older against an individual less than 13 years of age.

Under this provision, lifetime electronic monitoring is only mandated for CSC–II convictions when the offender was 17 years of age or older and the victim was less than 13 years of age. In contrast, § 520b contains no such limitation. Because the Legislature has specifically limited lifetime electronic monitoring for CSC–II offenders to sentences arising from specific age-based offenses, we will not read an identical limitation into § 520b where the Legislature did not see fit to include it.

See Farrington v. Total Petroleum, Inc., 442 Mich. 201, 210, 501 N.W.2d 76 (1993) ("Courts cannot assume that the Legislature inadvertently omitted from one statute the language that it placed in another statute, and then, on the basis of that assumption, apply what is not there.").

Finally, we note that in analyzing this issue, lower courts and the parties in this case have focused extensively on when lifetime electronic monitoring may be imposed under § 520n(1). Their arguments have primarily been concerned with the effect of the modifying phrase "for criminal sexual conduct committed by an individual 17 years old or older against an individual less than 13 years of age" in § 520n(1). We reject defendant's invitation to read this phrase as restricting lifetime electronic monitoring to CSC–I and CSC–II sentences for offenses committed by an individual 17 years of age or older against an individual less than 13 years of age. Generally, a modifying clause is confined solely to the last antecedent unless a contrary intention appears. There is no such intention here. Applying this general rule to determine that the age limitation only applies to convictions for CSC–II is entirely consistent with the statutory analysis above. Instead, it is defendant's reading that fails to give effect to every phrase and clause in the statutory scheme. In addition to rendering part of § 520b(2)(d) nugatory, interpreting § 520n(1) to add an age limitation to both § 520b and § 520c would improperly render the specific age limitation in § 520c(2)(b) surplusage. Therefore, we hold that under § 520b(2)(d), lifetime electronic monitoring must be imposed for all defendants convicted of CSC–I except where the defendant has been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole under § 520b(2)(c).

See, e.g., Brantley, 296 Mich.App. at 557, 823 N.W.2d 290 ; People v. King, 297 Mich.App. 465, 485–487, 824 N.W.2d 258 (2012).

Sun Valley Foods Co. v. Ward, 460 Mich. 230, 237, 596 N.W.2d 119 (1999).

See People v. Miller, 498 Mich. 13, 25, 869 N.W.2d 204 (2015) (stating that we must "avoid an interpretation that would render any part of the statute surplusage or nugatory") (citation and quotation marks omitted).

Turning to this case, defendant pleaded guilty to CSC–I under § 520b(1)(c) for sexual penetration occurring under circumstances involving the commission of another felony. The punishment for this offense is: (1) imprisonment for life or for any term of years and (2) mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring. Consequently, the trial court was required to impose lifetime electronic monitoring. Because defendant's judgment of sentence did not include this statutorily mandated punishment, we agree with the Court of Appeals that his sentence was invalid.

See People v. Miles, 454 Mich. 90, 96, 559 N.W.2d 299 (1997) (stating that a sentence is invalid when it is based on "a misconception of law").

B. THE TRIAL COURT COULD NOT AMEND DEFENDANT'S SENTENCE ON ITS OWN INITIATIVE

Having determined that defendant's sentence was invalid, we next address whether the trial court was authorized to amend defendant's judgment of sentence on its own initiative 19 months after judgment on the sentence had entered.

As with statutes, we begin our analysis with the plain language of the relevant court rules. Answering whether the trial court has the authority to correct sua sponte an invalid sentence after judgment on that sentence has entered requires us to consider two court rules: one general, one specific. MCR 6.435, entitled "Correcting Mistakes," provides the general rule regarding a court's ability to correct mistakes in judgments and orders. MCR 6.435(A) details the court's authority to correct clerical mistakes and provides:

Henry v. Dow Chem. Co., 484 Mich. 483, 495, 772 N.W.2d 301 (2009).

(A) Clerical Mistakes. Clerical mistakes in judgments, orders, or other parts of the record and errors arising from oversight or omission may be corrected

by the court at any time on its own initiative or on motion of a party, and after notice if the court orders it.

Under this subrule, a court may correct a clerical mistake on its own initiative at any time, including after a judgment has entered.

But the parties do not contend that the failure to sentence defendant to lifetime electronic monitoring was a clerical mistake. Nor could they—the original sentencing judge said nothing about lifetime electronic monitoring at the initial sentencing. Instead, as the parties recognize, the failure to impose lifetime electronic monitoring was a substantive mistake, which is the province of MCR 6.435(B). Subrule (B) reads:

(B) Substantive Mistakes. After giving the parties an opportunity to be heard, and provided it has not yet entered judgment in the case, the court may reconsider and modify, correct, or rescind any order it concludes was erroneous.

As with clerical errors, MCR 6.435(B) contemplates the court acting on its own initiative to correct substantive mistakes; otherwise, there would be no need to specify that the court must first give the parties an opportunity to be heard. Yet the court's ability to correct substantive mistakes under MCR 6.435(B) ends upon entry of the judgment.

This provides the court with a seven-day window to review a sentence before signing the judgment of sentence. See MCR 6.427 ("Within 7 days after sentencing, the court must date and sign a written judgment of sentence....").

Against the backdrop of MCR 6.435, we turn to the specific court rule discussing the court's ability to correct an invalid sentence. MCR 6.429, entitled "Correction and Appeal of Sentence," provides, in relevant part:

(A) Authority to Modify Sentence. A motion to correct an invalid sentence may be filed by either party. The court may correct an invalid sentence, but the court may not modify a valid sentence after it has been imposed except as provided by law.

(B) Time for Filing Motion.

(1) A motion to correct an invalid sentence may be filed before the filing of a timely claim of appeal.

(2) If a claim of appeal has been filed, a motion to correct an invalid sentence may only be filed in accordance with the procedure set forth in MCR 7.208(B) or the remand procedure set forth in MCR 7.211(C)(1).

(3) If the defendant may only appeal by leave or fails to file a timely claim of appeal, a motion to correct an invalid sentence may be filed within 6 months of entry of the judgment of conviction and sentence.

(4) If the defendant is no longer entitled to appeal by right or by leave, the defendant may seek relief pursuant to the procedure set forth in subchapter 6.500.

The first sentence of MCR 6.429(A) provides that "[a] motion to correct an invalid sentence may be filed by either party." This provision gives both parties the ability to seek correction of an invalid sentence if they choose to do so. The next sentence of the rule states that a "court may correct an invalid sentence, but the court may not modify a valid sentence after it has been imposed except as provided by law." This reflects the well-recognized principle that trial courts possess the power to review and correct an invalid sentence. It also distinguishes this power from the trial court's authority to modify a valid sentence, which is much more circumscribed.

This sentence was added by a 2005 amendment clarifying that the rule applies to motions to correct an invalid sentence and that such motions may be filed by either party. MCR 6.429(A), as amended July 13, 2005, 473 Mich. lxx (2005).

Trial courts ordinarily lack the authority to set aside a valid sentence. See People v. Barfield, 411 Mich. 700, 702–703, 311 N.W.2d 724 (1981). But the Legislature may provide exceptions to this rule. See, e.g., MCL 801.257 ("[A] prisoner may receive, if approved by the court, a reduction of ¼ of his or her term if his or her conduct, diligence, and general attitude merit such reduction.").

MCR 6.429(B) provides a detailed process governing how and when a party may file a motion to correct an invalid sentence. Specifically, before the filing of a timely claim of appeal, either party may file a motion to correct an invalid sentence under MCR 6.429(B)(1). After a claim of appeal has been filed, a party may only file a motion to correct an invalid sentence as specified by MCR 6.429(B)(2) and (3). These motions are time limited. If a claim of appeal has been filed, a defendant has 56 days to file a motion to correct an invalid sentence. Or the appellant may file a motion to remand within the time provided for filing the appellant's brief. In cases where, as here, a defendant may only appeal by leave, either party has six months from the entry of the judgment of sentence to file a motion to correct an invalid sentence. Finally, when the appeal process is complete, the defendant may seek to correct an invalid sentence by seeking relief pursuant to Subchapter 6.500.

See Lee, 489 Mich. at 299, 803 N.W.2d 165 ("MCR 6.429(B) sets the time limits for a motion to correct an invalid sentence....").

MCR 6.429(B)(3). Because defendant pleaded guilty, he could only appeal his sentence by leave. MCR 7.203(B)(1).

Important to our interpretation of the rule is what MCR 6.429 does not address. While the second sentence in MCR 6.429(A) states that the court may correct invalid, but not valid, sentences, the remainder of MCR 6.429 focuses on parties filing a motion to correct an invalid sentence and is conspicuously silent on the court's authority to correct an invalid sentence sua sponte. When considered against the backdrop of the general rule, MCR 6.435(B), which permits a trial court to act on its own initiative to correct substantive mistakes in a sentence, but only until judgment is entered, the silence is telling. Had the drafters intended MCR 6.429 to allow sua sponte correction of substantive mistakes in a sentence after judgment is entered, we would have expected them to be more explicit. As a result, we believe MCR 6.429(A) is best read as requiring a party to file a timely motion before a court may correct an invalid sentence upon which judgment has already entered.

For instance, the court rules specifically grant a trial court the authority to act "on its own initiative" in other contexts, including several times in the same subchapter as MCR 6.429. See, e.g., MCR 6.412(D)(2) (challenges for cause); MCR 6.420(D) (poll of jury); MCR 6.435(A) (correcting clerical mistakes); MCR 6.005(G) (unanticipated conflicts of interest); MCR 6.120(B) (permissive joinder); MCR 6.610(B) (pretrial conference). We do not, however, suggest that the phrase "on its own initiative" is always required to authorize sua sponte action. We conclude only that MCR 6.429, when read together with MCR 6.435, contains no indicia that a trial court may independently act to correct an invalid sentence once judgment on that sentence has entered.

Therefore, we conclude that MCR 6.429 authorizes either party to seek correction of an invalid sentence upon which judgment has entered, but the rule does not authorize a trial court to do so sua sponte. MCR 6.429(B) describes in detail the process for correcting an invalid sentence, which requires the motion of a party. Like MCR 6.429(A), Subrule (B) contains no indication that a trial court may act on its own initiative. To the contrary, the procedure and accompanying time limits set forth in MCR 6.429(B) would have little meaning if MCR 6.429 permitted trial courts to correct invalid sentences sua sponte at any time. Interpreting the rule in this manner would render the time limitation in MCR 6.429(B)(3) a mere formality—for example, a prosecutor who fails to timely file could still bring to the court's attention that a defendant's sentence is invalid and urge the court to act on its own initiative to correct the sentence. And, if the trial court had unilateral authority to correct an invalid sentence under MCR 6.429, the timeliness of the prosecutor's request would be immaterial.

We have already recognized that these time limits are not trivialities. In People v. Lee, we held that a prosecutor's motion filed 20 months after the judgment of sentence entered was untimely and should have been denied by the trial court. Lee, 489 Mich. at 299, 803 N.W.2d 165. This determination would have been unnecessary if the trial court had the authority to correct the sentence sua sponte.

In sum, when considering MCR 6.435 and MCR 6.429 together, we conclude that the trial court's authority to correct an invalid sentence on its own initiative ends upon entry of the judgment of sentence. Thereafter, an invalid sentence may be corrected only upon the timely filing of a motion to correct an invalid sentence in accordance with MCR 6.429. In reaching the opposite conclusion, the Court of Appeals in this case relied on its previous decision in Harris , which stated that "a motion for resentencing is not a condition precedent for a trial court to correct an invalid sentence under MCR 6.429(A)...." We overrule Harris to the extent that it is inconsistent with our opinion.

See People v. Peck, 481 Mich. 863, 867 n. 1, 748 N.W.2d 235 (2008) ( Markman , J., dissenting) ("[MCR 6.429 ] requires that a ‘motion’ be ‘filed’ by a ‘party’ before a trial court may correct a sentence."); Comer, 312 Mich.App. at 547, 879 N.W.2d 306 ( Gleicher , P.J., concurring) ("These procedures clearly contemplate that a court may correct an invalid sentence only after a party has filed a motion seeking that relief."). See also Michigan Rules of Court: Volume I–State, MCR 6.435 (1989 Staff Comment), p. 357 (stating that the limitation in MCR 6.435(B) in correcting substantive mistakes "does not, however, prohibit a party aggrieved by a substantive mistake from obtaining relief by using available postconviction procedures.... [T]he defendant may obtain relief by filing a postconviction motion. See 6.429"). We acknowledge that staff comments to the court rules are not binding authority, but they can be persuasive in understanding the proper scope or interpretation of a rule or its terms. See People v. Hernandez, 443 Mich. 1, 9 n. 9, 503 N.W.2d 629 (1993).

In Harris, the prosecution moved for resentencing more than one year after the defendant's judgment of sentence when it discovered that a consecutive sentence should have been imposed. Harris, 224 Mich.App. at 599, 569 N.W.2d 525. The trial court granted the motion and resentenced the defendant. Id.

Id. at 601.

We emphasize that we reach our decision, as we must, based on the text of the relevant court rules. In the past, we have recognized that trial courts have the power to correct an invalid sentence sua sponte. But this Court is constitutionally vested with the exclusive authority to establish and modify rules of practice and procedure in this state. And when this Court exercises that authority, the courts are bound by its exercise. By adopting MCR 6.435 and MCR 6.429, we set forth the governing procedure for correcting an invalid sentence in Michigan that trial courts must follow. Under these rules, a party must move to correct an invalid sentence; a court cannot do so on its own accord after entry of the judgment.

See People v. Holder, 483 Mich. 168, 176, 767 N.W.2d 423 (2009) ("It is imperative ... that any corrections or modifications to a judgment of sentence must comply with the relevant statutes and court rules.").

See, e.g., In re Le mire, 360 Mich. 693, 695, 105 N.W.2d 37 (1960) ; In re Vitali, 153 Mich. 514, 515, 116 N.W. 1066 (1908) ; People v. Farrell, 146 Mich. 264, 270, 109 N.W. 440 (1906) (opinion by Carpenter , C.J.); People v. Dane, 81 Mich. 36, 40, 45 N.W. 655 (1890).

Const. 1963, art. 6, § 5. See also McDougall v. Schanz, 461 Mich. 15, 26, 597 N.W.2d 148 (1999).

See Holder, 483 Mich. at 176, 767 N.W.2d 423. While the result here is dictated by the plain language of MCR 6.429, in the future this Court may exercise our rulemaking authority to expressly provide courts with the power to correct sentences on their own initiative. We note that courts have this broader power in other jurisdictions. F.R. Crim. P. 35(a) ("Within 14 days after sentencing, the court may correct a sentence that resulted from arithmetical, technical, or other clear error."); Commonwealth v. Jones, 520 Pa. 385, 389–390, 554 A.2d 50 (1989) (holding that a sentencing court may correct an illegal sentence sua sponte); Guerin v. Fullerton, 389 P.2d 84, 85, 154 Colo. 142 (1964) (noting that Colo. R. Crim. P. 35(a) permits a court to correct a sentence on its own motion).

Our decision in Miles is not to the contrary. In Miles, we appear to have assumed that an invalid sentence was subject to sua sponte modification by the trial court under MCR 6.429(A) and noted that certain sentence modifications are ministerial in nature and do not require a resentencing hearing. Miles, 454 Mich. at 98–99, 559 N.W.2d 299. We ultimately held that the trial court erred when it modified defendant's sentence sua sponte without holding a hearing and remanded for a resentencing hearing because that was the remedy sought by the defendant. Id. at 94, 100, 559 N.W.2d 299. In doing so, we did not address the specific question presented here, i.e., whether a trial court may modify an invalid sentence on its own initiative at any time.

As applied here, defendant's sentence was invalid because it did not include the statutorily mandated punishment of lifetime electronic monitoring. Under MCR 6.429(B), the court could have corrected this substantive error on its own initiative before entering judgment. After that, the prosecution had six months from the entry of the judgment of sentence to file a motion to correct the invalid sentence. The prosecution did not do so. Instead, the trial court ordered a hearing on its own initiative, which was held 19 months after the original sentence was imposed, after which it added lifetime electronic monitoring to defendant's sentence. Under MCR 6.435 and MCR 6.429, this was improper because the trial court lacked the authority to correct defendant's invalid sentence absent a motion from one of the parties. Accordingly, we hold that the Court of Appeals erred when it affirmed the trial court's correction of defendant's invalid sentence.

Additionally, we agree with Judge Gleicher that the trial court erred by treating this as a plea withdrawal case in order to circumvent MCR 6.435 and that MCR 6.310(C)"relates to the trial court's determination of a motion brought by a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea." Comer, 312 Mich.App. at 551, 879 N.W.2d 306 ( Gleicher , P.J., concurring). Because defendant has not brought such a motion here, the plea withdrawal procedure set forth in MCR 6.310(C) is inapplicable.

IV. CONCLUSION

We hold that under MCL 750.520b(2)(d), the punishment of lifetime electronic monitoring must be imposed for all CSC–I sentences in which the offender is not imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole under § 520b(2)(c). Because defendant's sentence for CSC–I did not include lifetime electronic monitoring, it was invalid. We further hold that under MCR 6.435 and MCR 6.429, a trial court may not correct an invalid sentence on its own initiative after entry of the judgment; the court may only do so upon the proper motion of a party. Because neither party moved to correct defendant's sentence, the trial court erred by adding lifetime electronic monitoring to defendant's sentence on its own initiative 19 months after the original sentence was imposed. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part, reverse in part, vacate the April 29, 2013 judgment of sentence, and remand this case to the trial court to reinstate the October 8, 2012 judgment of sentence.

Stephen J. Markman, Bridget M. McCormack, Richard H. Bernstein, Joan L. Larsen

Zahra, J. (concurring in part and dissenting in part).

I entirely agree with the majority's well-reasoned holding that defendant's sentence was invalid because MCL 750.520b(2)(d) required the trial court to sentence defendant to lifetime electronic monitoring (LEM). Further, I find the majority's interpretation of MCR 6.429 and MCR 6.435 reasonable, and therefore I concur with the majority's conclusion that the trial court lacked authority to correct defendant's invalid sentence.

I part ways with the majority because I disagree with the majority's remedy, which is to reinstate the very sentence it properly concluded was invalid. While a trial court is restrained from granting relief sua sponte or on the basis of an untimely filed motion to correct a valid sentence, this Court "may, at any time , in addition to its general powers" "enter any judgment or order that ought to have been entered...."

MCR 7.316(A) and (A)(7) (emphasis added). The majority mistakenly believes that this Court's power under MCR 7.316(A) and (A)(7) is predicated on an underlying court rule that requires a defendant file a motion under MCR 6.310(C). MCR 7.316(A) and (A)(7) plainly state that this Court "may, at any time, in addition to its general powers" "enter any judgment or order that ought to have been entered...." (Emphasis added.)

The majority's remedy, in my view, does not address the significant constitutional concerns regarding whether defendant's plea was involuntary under this Court's decision in People v. Cole . As in Cole , the trial court failed to advise defendant that he is subject to LEM, which, as part of the sentence itself, is a direct consequence of the plea. Because defendant was not made aware of the LEM requirement, his plea is not constitutionally valid. Given that defendant's plea is not constitutionally valid, I believe any action taken to redress errors in defendant's sentence predicated on that invalid plea is premature.

People v. Cole, 491 Mich. 325, 817 N.W.2d 497 (2012).

Id. at 335, 817 N.W.2d 497.

Id. at 333, 817 N.W.2d 497, citing Meyer v. Branker, 506 F.3d 358; 367–368 (C.A. 4, 2007).

This Court has made very clear that " MCR 6.310(C) provides the proper remedy for violations of MCR 6.302(B)(2)." Indeed, I believe that MCR 6.310(C)"provides the sole remedy for violations of MCR 6.302(B)(2) when a defendant seeks to withdraw his plea after sentencing." Consistently with this view, I conclude that specific performance of an invalid sentence is inappropriate because there is no basis for such a remedy in our court rules. This Court's jurisprudence is generally in accord, albeit for different reasons, having stated that "[r]esentencing a defendant to a term within the range the court articulated at an erroneous plea hearing might lead to unfair results. It might create a binding ‘pleaded to’ sentence to which neither the prosecution nor the defendant agreed."

People v. Brown, 492 Mich. 684, 699, 822 N.W.2d 208 (2012).

Id. at 703, 822 N.W.2d 208 ( Young , C.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).

Id.

Id. at 699–700 (opinion of the Court).

I see no basis to depart from these principles regardless of whether defendant, the prosecution, or the trial court raised the violations of MCR 6.302(B)(2). In each instance, the fact remains that "[i]f the trial court determines that there was an error in the plea proceeding that would entitle the defendant to have the plea set aside, the court must give the advice or make the inquiries necessary to rectify the error and then give the defendant the opportunity to elect to allow the plea and sentence to stand or to withdraw the plea." More importantly, this Court has stressed that "the concerns about a defendant understanding the consequences of a guilty plea are present when the defendant is notified of possible sentence enhancement only after pleading guilty. Just as in the case at hand, a defendant's right to make an understanding plea is of the utmost importance in that circumstance." Therefore, instead of reinstating an invalid sentence that is predicated on an invalid plea, I would conclude that the appropriate remedy in this case is to "give the defendant the opportunity to elect to allow the plea and sentence to stand or to withdraw the plea."

Brown, 492 Mich. at 701, 822 N.W.2d 208 (emphasis added).

MCR 6.310(C) ; cf. People v. Cobbs, 443 Mich. 276, 505 N.W.2d 208 (1993).
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Kurtis T. Wilder


Summaries of

People v. Comer

Supreme Court of Michigan.
Jun 23, 2017
500 Mich. 278 (Mich. 2017)

holding that failing to order lifetime electronic monitoring that is statutorily mandated renders a sentence invalid

Summary of this case from People v. Boyce

holding that the Legislature intended to "mandate lifetime electronic monitoring for all CSC I sentences in which the defendant has not been sentenced to life without parole."

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concluding that the trial court's failure to sentence the defendant to lifetime electronic monitoring, even though the defendant's first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-I) conviction carried a statutory punishment that included mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring, was a substantive mistake and could not be a clerical mistake where the sentencing judge "said nothing about lifetime electronic monitoring at the initial sentencing"

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In People v. Comer, 500 Mich. 278, 297, 901 N.W.2d 553 (2017), this Court concluded that " MCR 6.429 authorizes either party to seek correction of an invalid sentence upon which judgment has entered, but the rule does not authorize a trial court to do so sua sponte.

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stating that the same broad legal principles governing the interpretation of statutes apply to the interpretation of court rules

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In Comer, our Supreme Court determined that the trial court had initially imposed an invalid sentence on the defendant by failing to order lifetime electronic monitoring even though this monitoring was a mandatory punishment for the CSC-I offense for which the defendant was convicted.

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In Comer, a case with facts substantially similar to those at issue here, our Supreme Court addressed whether a trial court's failure to impose mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring for a CSC-I conviction renders a sentence invalid and, if so, whether the trial court may correct the invalid sentence on its own initiative after entry of the original judgment of sentence. Comer, 500 Mich at 283.

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In People v Comer, 500 Mich 278; 901 NW2d 553 (2017), our Supreme Court concluded that the defendant's original sentence was invalid because it did not include the required imposition of electronic monitoring.

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In Comer, the defendant pleaded guilty to CSC-I and second-degree home invasion, but he was never advised that his sentence was subject to lifetime electronic monitoring.

Summary of this case from People v. McNees

In People v Comer, 500 Mich 278, 560 n 35; 901 NW2d 553 (2017), our Supreme Court held that the defendant's sentence was invalid because it was based on a misconception of law, i.e., it did not include the statutorily mandated punishment of lifetime electronic monitoring.

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Case details for

People v. Comer

Case Details

Full title:PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Justin Timothy…

Court:Supreme Court of Michigan.

Date published: Jun 23, 2017

Citations

500 Mich. 278 (Mich. 2017)
500 Mich. 278

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