State v. Adams

State v. Adams, 2013 MT 189 (July 15, 2013) (5-0) (Rice, J.)

Issue: Whether the district court properly denied Adams’ motion to dismiss the state’s petition to revoke Adams’ suspended sentence.

Short Answer: Yes.


Facts: In 2005, while a juvenile, Adams committed numerous offenses that would have been criminal offenses if committed by an adult. Adams was found to be a delinquent youth in October 2005, and committed to the Department of Corrections until age 18 with a recommendation for placement at the Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility. Adams was placed at Pine Hills until he was released to juvenile probation in September 2006. In the two months following his release, Adams committed several probationary violations. In November 2006, the judge ordered transfer of jurisdiction to the district court and transfer of supervision to adult probation services. Adams, then 18, was placed on adult probation supervision until his 21st birthday.

That same day, Adams stole a car. Two days later, he stole another. He was apprehended and charged with one count of felony theft and two count of misdemeanor theft. The state petitioned to revoke Adams’ probation in the previous case based upon the new charges.

The state and Adams entered into a plea agreement whereby Adams pled guilty to felony theft and the state dismissed the two misdemeanor charges. The parties agreed that a three-year commitment to DOC, all suspended, would be an appropriate disposition for the offense, and that his sentence would run consecutively to the disposition in the earlier case. The judge accepted the plea agreement and committed Adams to the DOC for three years, all suspended, to run consecutively to the disposition to be imposed in the pending revocation hearing.

At the revocation hearing, the judge revoked Adams’ probation and committed him to the DOC until his 21st birthday, with no time suspended. Adams entered boot camp in August 2007, but was transferred to the state prison in October 2007. He was released on his 21st birthday in 2009 to begin serving his 2007 sentence.

Adams was transferred to Washington state, but violated the terms of his supervision and was returned to Montana.

Procedural Posture & Holding: In January 2012, the state petitioned to revoke the 2007 sentence. Adams moved to dismiss, arguing the district court did not have authority to order his adult criminal sentence to run consecutively to the earlier disposition. The district court denied the motion. Adams entered admissions to the petition to revoke, requested inpatient chemical dependency treatment, and reserved his right to appeal. The district court revoked his 2007 sentence and committed Adams to DOC for three years with credit served. Adams appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Adams argues that an adult sentence can never be ordered to run consecutively to a juvenile disposition, which is civil in nature. He argues that his 2007 sentence expired before the state petitioned to revoke it, and was therefore untimely. The state argues Adams waived his right to challenge the 2007 sentence by acquiescing to it, and failing to appeal.

A defendant has 60 days to appeal a sentence. If he does not appeal, he is generally precluded form later challenging the legality of the sentence. Because Adams did not challenge the 2007 sentence until 2012, his challenge is untimely. He is limited to challenging the 2012 revocation sentence. The authority to designate a sentence to run concurrently or consecutively is not within the particulars of the revocation statutes and could not be “corrected” during the 2012 revocation proceedings. Further, by the time of the 2012 proceeding, Adams’ 2005 disposition had already been served and discharged. Adams bargained for and obtained a probationary sentence in 2007. Years later, he seeks to overturn the bargain because he faces prison time. Any defects in the 2007 sentence could have been corrected had they been raised in a timely manner, but Adams did not raise the issue until it was too late.