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A Better Partnership
October 09, 2015

COA: No time limit for trial court to correct Judgment of Sentence to impose lifetime electronic monitoring for CSC-I conviction

In People v Comer, No. 318854, the Michigan Court of Appeals reaffirmed that a defendant convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree (“CSC-I”) is subject to mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring, even if the trial court mistakenly omitted the electronic monitoring from defendant’s first Judgment of Sentence.  The court further held that a trial court is empowered to correct an invalid sentence at any time, in this case 20 months later to provide for lifetime electronic monitoring. MCR 6.429(A) does not impose a time limit for correcting an invalid sentence. 
 
The defendant, Comer, plead guilty to CSC-I.  The original Judgment of Sentence neglected to order lifetime electronic monitoring, as mandated in MCL 750.520b.   20 months after the original judgement was issued, the trial court resentenced Comer and imposed lifetime electronic monitoring. Comer appealed claiming that he was not subject to lifetime electronic monitoring and that the trial court waited too long to impose this sentence.
 
Comer first argued that People v Brantley did not create a mandate to amend a sentencing judgment in every CSC-I case where lifetime electronic monitoring was not applied. While the Court agreed that no such “mandate” exists, the Court stated that its prior decision in People v Johnson, which we blogged about here, controls the outcome of Comer’s appeal. Johnson held that MCL 750.520b(2) requires lifetime electronic monitoring for all defendants convicted of CSC-I when the defendant is not sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As a result, the Court held that Comer was subject to mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring when he was first sentenced and that the failure to include this requirement made the sentence invalid. The Court also rejected Comer’s second argument that the trial court did not possess the authority to correct his sentence 20 months after the original sentence. The Court stated that it was bound by its prior decision in People v Harris, which held that the Michigan Court Rules do “not set time limits with respect to a trial court’s authority to correct an invalid sentence.” Therefore, as Comer’s sentencing was invalid, the trial court had the authority—without time limitation—to subsequently correct Comer’s sentence.
 
Judge Gleicher concurred with the Court’s result solely based on stare decisis, but stated that she believes that Harris was wrongly decided and should be overruled by the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge Gleicher argued that the trial court’s failure to include lifetime electronic monitoring in its sentencing was a substantive mistake, not a clerical mistake. Consequently, MCR 6.435 should control as it permits correcting substantive mistakes so long as the trial court has not yet entered judgment, which is “intended to rein in a court’s authority to alter even an invalid sentence.”

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