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Wilson v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

January 11, 2019

Kimberly Ann Wilson
v.
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Madison Circuit Court (CC-17-2482)

          WELCH, JUDGE.

         Kimberly Ann Wilson appeals her guilty-plea conviction for trafficking in a controlled substance--methamphetamine, see § 13A-12-231, Ala. Code 1975. She was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment and was also ordered to pay a $50, 000 fine, a $2, 000 fine under the Drug Demand Reduction Assessment Act, a $100 fee to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, a $100 crime victims compensation assessment, and various court costs and attorney fees. This appeal followed.

         Facts and Procedural History

         The record indicates that, on April 3, 2016, the Madison-Morgan County Drug Task Force STAC Team received information through a confidential informant that a woman, identified as Wilson, was preparing to deliver a large amount of methamphetamine to Whiplash Customs in Huntsville. The informant was able to show agents a picture of Wilson and told them that she would be driving a gray Infiniti automobile with a Georgia license plate.

         STAC agents surveilled a business known as Whiplash Customs property for approximately three hours before they noticed a vehicle approach the property that matched the description given to them by their informant. After the vehicle parked, agents observed Wilson exit the driver's side of the vehicle with a purse on her shoulder. Wilson then walked to the back of her vehicle, knelt down, and tossed a black case underneath her vehicle.

         The agents then moved in and detained Wilson. When one agent reached under Wilson's vehicle, he found the black case. Wilson denied that the case belonged to her. When law-enforcement officers opened the case, they found a yellow bag inside of which was a duct-taped package. Inside the package were three large bags containing a pink ice-like substance that was determined to be methamphetamine. An analysis of the methamphetamine revealed that it weighed 172 grams or 6 ounces. They also found in Wilson's vehicle two cellular telephones and a notebook containing a ledger.

         After law-enforcement officers read Wilson her Miranda[1]rights, they questioned her about the methamphetamine. During that conversation, Wilson initially stated that she did not know what was in the case and that she had gotten the case from a woman who, she said, had told her to deliver the case to Whiplash Customs. She also stated that she had marijuana in her purse. Wilson later admitted, however, that she knew that there was methamphetamine inside the case.

         On June 21, 2017, Wilson was indicted for trafficking in a controlled substance--methamphetamine, see § 13A-12-231, Ala. Code 1975. On March 2, 2018, Wilson entered a blind guilty plea to that offense. On May 18, 2018, the court sentenced Wilson to 20 years' imprisonment.

         That same day, Wilson filed a motion asking the circuit court to reconsider her sentence. That motion was subsequently denied. Wilson also filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the sentencing order but that motion was also denied. Thereafter, Wilson filed a timely notice of appeal.

         Discussion

         I.

         On appeal, Wilson argues, among other things, that the circuit court erred in ordering her to pay a $2, 000 fine under the Drug Demand Reduction Assessment Act, § 13A-12-281(a), Ala. Code 1975, ("the DDRA"). Specifically, she contends that, under the provisions in the DDRA, the court was not permitted to increase her $1, 000 DDRA fine based on her prior felony trafficking conviction in Georgia because that specific offense was not enumerated in the statute. We agree.

         Section 13A-12-281(a), Ala. Code 1975, provides:

"In addition to any disposition and fine authorized by Sections 13A-12-202, 13A-12-203, 13A-12-204, 13A-12-211, 13A-12-212, 13A-12-213, 13A-12-215, or 13A-12-231, or any other statute indicating the dispositions that can be ordered for such a conviction, every person convicted of a violation of any offense defined in the sections set forth above, shall be assessed for each offense an additional penalty fixed at one thousand dollars ($1, 000) for a first offense and two thousand dollars ($2, 000) for a second or subsequent offense."

(Emphasis added.) This Court has previously addressed a similar issue in Holloway v. State, 995 So.2d 180 (Ala.Crim.App.2008). In that case, this Court stated:

"'"'"[I]t is well established that criminal statutes should not be 'extended by construction.'"' Ex parte Mutrie, 658 So.2d 347, 349 (Ala. 1993) (quoting Ex parte Evers, 434 So.2d 813, 817 (Ala. 1983), quoting in turn Locklear v. State, 50 Ala.App. 679, 282 So.2d 116 (1973)).
"'"'A basic rule of review in criminal cases is that criminal statutes are to be strictly construed in favor of those persons sought to be subjected to their operation, i.e., defendants. Schenher v. State, 38 Ala.App. 573, 90 So.2d 234, cert. denied, 265 Ala. 700, 90 So.2d 238 (1956).
"'"'Penal statutes are to reach no further in meaning than their words. Fuller v. State, 257 Ala. 502, 60 So.2d 202 (1952).'"'
"Cockrell v. State, 890 So.2d 174, 180-81 (Ala. 2004)(quoting Ex parte Bertram, 884 So.2d 889, 891 (Ala. 2003), superseded by statute as stated in
Hankins v. State, 989 So.2d 610 (Ala.Crim.App.2007)).[]
"The record shows that Holloway had more than three prior convictions in the State of Ohio for trafficking. As Judge Baschab wrote in her special writing in Williams v. State, 941 So.2d 342, 343 (Ala.Crim.App.2006) (Baschab, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part):
"'[T]he plain language of § 13A-12-281(a), Ala. Code 1975, indicates that the $2, 000 penalty applies only if the previous conviction or convictions were for violations of the sections specifically enumerated in that statute. Compare Ex parte Bertram, 884 So.2d 889 (Ala. 2003)(holding that, based on the plain language of § 32-5A-191, Ala. Code 1975, a prior out-of-state conviction for driving under the influence cannot be used to enhance a defendant's sentence ... for driving under the influence pursuant to § 32-5A-191, Ala. Code 1975).'
"Holloway's Ohio convictions are not enumerated in § 13A-12-281(a), Ala. Code 1975. Therefore, the $2, 000 fine the trial court imposed exceeds the $1, 000 fine mandated by § 13A-12-281, Ala. Code 1975, for the first offense. Accordingly, this case is hereby remanded for the trial court to set aside the $2, 000 Demand Reduction Assessment Act fine, as required by § 13A-12-281(a), Ala. Code 1975."

Holloway v. State, 995 So.2d 180, 182 (Ala.Crim.App.2008)(footnote omitted).

         In the present case, the record shows that the circuit court ordered Wilson to pay a $2, 000 DDRA fine in light of her prior trafficking conviction in Georgia. Like the defendant's out-of-state convictions in Holloway, Wilson's conviction in Georgia is not enumerated in § 13A-12-281(a), Ala. Code 1975. Thus, the fine imposed by the court exceeds that permitted by the statute, and we remand this case for the circuit court to impose a fine of $1, 000 as permitted by the DDRA.

         II.

         Wilson argues that the circuit court erroneously sentenced her to 20 years' imprisonment. Specifically, Wilson argues that the court mistakenly believed that Wilson was required to serve, at a minimum, a three-year split term and that it did not have the authority to suspend that split sentence. As a result, Wilson contends that this case should be remanded to give the circuit court the opportunity to split and suspend her sentence.

         The circumstances underlying Wilson's claim here are as follows. Before Wilson entered her guilty plea, the following exchange occurred concerning the punishment ...


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