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Grant v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

August 19, 2016

TRISTAN JAMALL GRANT, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Respondent.

         Petition for Review from the Superior Court No. 3AN-11-7467 CR, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Paul E. Olson, Judge.

          Michael T. Schwaiger, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Petitioner. Jenna L. Gruenstein, Assistant District Attorney, Anchorage, and James E. Cantor, Acting Attorney General, Juneau, for the Respondent.

          Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, and Allard, Judge.

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER Judge.

         While Tristan Jamall Grant was on probation for fourth-degree controlled substance misconduct in this case, he committed a new crime - a federal offense - and Grant's state probation officer filed a petition to revoke his probation.

         While that probation revocation petition was pending, the federal court sentenced Grant to serve 6 months' imprisonment for the new federal crime. Several weeks later, the superior court revoked Grant's probation in this case and sentenced him to serve 2 months of his previously suspended jail time.

         The superior court initially made this 2-month probation revocation sentence concurrent with Grant's federal sentence. But the superior court later concluded that, under Alaska sentencing law, these two sentences had to run consecutively. The court therefore amended Grant's judgement to make the 2-month probation revocation sentence consecutive to Grant's federal sentence.

         Grant now petitions this Court to reverse the superior court's decision - to order the superior court to again make the 2-month probation revocation sentence concurrent with Grant's federal sentence. Grant argues that the superior court violated his rights under the double jeopardy clause when the court amended Grant's probation revocation sentence to make it consecutive to his federal sentence.

         We grant the petition for review - and, for the reasons explained here, we affirm the superior court's decision.

         The superior court's interpretation of AS 12.55.127(a) was correct

         Normally, once a criminal sentence is meaningfully imposed, any increase in that sentence will violate the double jeopardy clause. [1] But a sentence is not "meaningfully imposed" for these purposes if the sentence is illegal. [2] Thus, if a sentence is illegally lenient, the sentencing court may adjust it upward - although only to the extent necessary to cure the illegality. [3]

         In Grant's case, the superior court concluded that, under Alaska law, Grant's 2-month probation revocation sentence had to be consecutive to the sentence Grant received for his new federal crime. Thus, the court concluded, it had acted illegally when it made the probation revocation sentence concurrent with Grant's federal sentence.

         The superior court based its ruling on subsection (a) of AS 12.55.127, the statute that governs consecutive sentencing. Subsection (a) declares:

If a defendant is required to serve a term of imprisonment under a separate judgment, [then any] term of imprisonment imposed in a later judgment, amended judgment, or ...

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