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Swarlz v. Municipalily of Anchorage

Court of Appeals of Alaska

February 15, 2019

CAROLINE K. SWARLZ, Appellant,
v.
MUNICIPALILY OF ANCHORAGE, Appellee.

          Appeal from the District Court No. 3AN-14-6816 CR, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Jennifer Henderson, Judge.

          Shaul L. Goldberg, Denali Law Group, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

          Sarah E. Stanley, Assistant Municipal Prosecutor, and William D. Falsey, Municipal Attorney, Anchorage, for the Appellee.

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

          OPINION

          ALLARD Judge.

         In January 2015, Caroline K. Swartz pleaded guilty to driving while license suspended or revoked in violation of the Anchorage Municipal Code.[1] Pursuant to a Criminal Rule 11 agreement, Swartz was sentenced to 90 days' imprisonment with 90 days suspended, a $500 fine with $250 suspended, 3 years' probation, and 80 hours of mandatory community work service - i.e., community work service hours that were mandated by the municipal ordinance as a condition of her probation.[2]

         As part of her plea agreement, Swartz agreed that she would complete her community work service hours within six months, and she further agreed that any uncompleted portion of the 80 hours of community work service "will convert to jail" if it was not completed by the court's deadline. No conversion rate was specified in the plea agreement.

         Swartz ultimately completed only 8 hours of the mandated 80 hours of community work service, leaving 72 hours uncompleted. The Municipality petitioned the court to revoke Swartz's probation and argued that the 72 hours of community work service should be automatically converted into 9 days in jail pursuant to the plea agreement.

         The court held a hearing on the petition in February 2017. At that hearing, Swartz argued that the court had no authority to convert her community work service to jail time because the Alaska legislature had recently amended state law to prevent such conversions. Swartz also argued that conversion to jail time was impermissible even before the change of law under our 2000 decision, State v. Fogg[3] The Municipality argued that the change in law did not apply to Swartz's case and that Fogg was inapplicable. According to the Municipality, the court had the authority to convert community work service hours into j ail time under the municipal code. The Municipality also emphasized that Swartz had agreed to the conversion as part of her original plea agreement.

         The district court judge agreed with the Municipality and imposed 9 days of jail time for the 72 hours of uncompleted community work service. Swartz now appeals, arguing that the 9 days of jail time was unlawfully imposed. For the reasons explained here, we conclude that the court erred in imposing the 9 days of jail time.

         Why we conclude that the court erred when it imposed 9 days of jail time

         In 2016, the Alaska legislature amended As 12.55.055 to expressly prohibit courts from converting uncompleted community work service hours into jail time.[4]Subsection (g) of AS 12.55.055 now declares:

(g) The court may not
(1) offer a defendant convicted ofan offense the option of serving jail time in lieu of performing uncompleted community work ...

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