for Review from the District Court No. 3AN-16-5597 CR, Third
Judicial District, Anchorage, Douglas Kossler, Judge.
E. Doty, Assistant Municipal Prosecutor, and William Falsey,
Municipal Attorney, Anchorage, for the Petitioner.
L. Goldberg, Denali Law Group, Anchorage, for the Respondent.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Suddock,
Superior Court Judge. [*]
past year, the Alaska Legislature enacted SLA 2016, chapter
36 - popularly known as "Senate Bill 91" - which
effected a wide-ranging revision of our criminal statutes.
One of the provisions of this law modified the sentencing
range for class A misdemeanors.
the statute governing misdemeanor sentencing provided a
penalty of up to 1 year's imprisonment for all persons
convicted of a class A misdemeanor. Now, however, the maximum
penalty for a class A misdemeanor is 30 days'
imprisonment unless the defendant's case meets one or
more of the criteria listed in AS
present case, we are asked to interpret one of those criteria
- subsection (1)(C) of AS 12.55.135(a) - which declares that
the maximum penalty for a class A misdemeanor is 1 year's
imprisonment if "[the] defendant has past criminal
convictions for conduct violative of criminal laws ...
similar in nature to the offense for which the defendant is
defendant in this case, Mark Anthony Brooks, was charged by
the Municipality of Anchorage with operating a motor vehicle
under the influence. He has one prior conviction for this
offense. At Brooks's change-of-plea hearing, the question
arose whether Brooks faces a maximum sentence of 1 year's
imprisonment under subsection (1)(C) - i.e., the
subsection quoted in the preceding paragraph.
district court ruled that Brooks is not covered by
subsection (1)(C), and that his maximum sentence is therefore
district court based this ruling on the fact that subsection
(1)(C) speaks of "convictions" in the plural. The
court acknowledged that Alaska law contains a provision which
declares that, when a court interprets a statute, the court
should assume that the singular form of nouns includes the
plural, and that the plural form of nouns includes the
singular. See AS 01.10.050(b): "Words in the singular
number include the plural, and words in the plural number
include the singular."
present case, however, the district court concluded that it
should not follow this rule of construction when interpreting
AS 12.55.135(a)(1)(C). The district court declared that the
"plain, ordinary meaning" of the word
"convictions" is "more than one
conviction." The court also declared that the
Municipality had failed to offer any legislative history
affirmatively proving that the Alaska Legislature intended
the word "convictions" to be interpreted in the
singular as well as the plural. Thus, the district court
concluded, the category of defendants with prior
"convictions" does not encompass defendants who
have only a single conviction.
conclude that the district court's decision is incorrect.
we disagree with the district court that the plain or
ordinary meaning of the word "convictions" is
strictly limited to "two or more convictions", and
that people understand this word to exclude a single
conviction. For example, we seriously doubt that any judge
who asked a defense attorney, "Does your client have
prior convictions?" would have much patience with an
attorney who answered this ...