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Laakkonen v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

April 12, 2019

Gregory Blane Laakkonen
v.
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Madison Circuit Court (CC-18-602)

          Minor, Judge.

         Gregory Blane Laakkonen pleaded guilty on June 26, 2018, to possession of a controlled substance, see § 13A-12-212, Ala. Code 1975, a Class D felony. The circuit court sentenced him to 24 months' confinement in the county jail. Laakkonen appeals, challenging his sentence and the circuit court's denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea.

         Before Laakkonen pleaded guilty, the circuit court addressed Laakkonen and his defense counsel.

"You are charged, sir, with possession of a controlled substance, which is a Class D felony, which statutorily has a range of punishment of not less than--not more than five years nor less than a year and a day with the department of corrections and a fine not to exceed $7, 500.
"....
"Okay. Now, this is subject to the sentencing guidelines, and as it relates to you, it has a presumptive sentence range of 15 to 97 months on a straight sentence or 8 to 27 months on a split sentence. Now there is a notation here that you have two prior felony convictions. Is there a stipulation or agreement in that regard?"

(R. 2-3.) Laakkonen affirmed that there was an agreement regarding his two prior felony convictions. The circuit court continued:

"Okay. All right. And the reason why I ask that is that is taken into account in coming up with this presumptive sentence range. Now, as we indicated, the way that this is scored, non-prison versus prison, you scored in the prison range, but since it is a Class D felony underneath the presumptive sentence standards that--since you have two prior felony convictions, it is a community corrections, probation, depending upon what the Court decides, okay."

(R. 3-4.) After Laakkonen pleaded guilty, the circuit court set a sentencing hearing for August 23, 2018.

         Before the sentencing hearing, a "Drug Prison In/Out Worksheet" and a "Drug Prison Sentence Length Worksheet" were completed for Laakkonen and provided to the circuit court. See Presumptive and Voluntary Sentencing Standards Manual (2016). Laakkonen received a score of 9 on his In/Out Worksheet, which placed him in the "prison" range for sentencing. On the Sentence Length Worksheet Laakkonen received scores for, among other things, having two prior adult felony Class C convictions. His total score on the Sentence Length Worksheet was 107, which gave him a presumptive sentence range of 15 to 97 months on a straight sentence and 8 to 27 months on a split sentence. (Supp. 30); see also Presumptive and Voluntary Sentencing Standards Manual 45.

         At the sentencing hearing, the circuit court discussed the presentence investigative report, portions of the Presumptive and Voluntary Sentencing Standards Manual, and § 15-18-8, Ala. Code 1975. The circuit court noted that Laakkonen had a criminal history that went back to 1975 and advised Laakkonen that "the worksheet involved in this matter indicates that this is a prison event and that the presumptive sentence range for you is 15 to 97 months on a straight sentence and 8 to 27 months on a split sentence." Laakkonen's counsel advised the circuit court that "§ 15-18-8 suggests that the court shall sentence to community corrections." The circuit court read aloud portions of the presumptive sentencing standards manual and portions of § 15-18-8, Ala. Code 1975, before orally pronouncing sentence upon Laakkonen. "So having previously found you guilty of Possession of a Controlled Substance, it's the sentence of this Court that you serve 24 months in the Madison County jail." (R. 13-16, 20-21.) The circuit court entered a written sentencing order to that effect.[1] The circuit court did not split Laakkonen's sentence. Laakkonen's subsequent motion to withdraw his guilty plea was denied.

         Laakkonen argues on appeal that his sentence was illegal because, he says, it was not in accordance with the presumptive sentencing standards. He contends that the circuit court improperly sentenced him to 24 months in the county jail and that the circuit court did not split Laakkonen's sentence in conformance with § 15-18-8(b), Ala. Code 1975. Laakkonen also argues that, because he was not advised of the correct sentence range he could receive for his conviction, the circuit court erred in denying Laakkonen's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The State concedes that Laakkonen is entitled to relief on both arguments.

         The October 1, 2016, amendment to the presumptive sentencing standards applies to Laakkonen's guilty plea to a Class D felony.

"'In 2012, the legislature enacted § 12-25-34.2, Ala. Code 1975, effective May 15, 2012, to implement presumptive sentencing standards. See Act No. 2012-473, Ala. Acts 2012. See also Hyde v. State, 185 So.3d 501, 502-04 (Ala.Crim.App.2015)(detailing the history of the 2012 amendment to the Alabama Sentencing Reform Act of 2003, codified at §§ 12-25-30 to -38, Ala. Code 1975). The presumptive sentencing standards became effective on October 1, 2013, see Clark v. State, 166 So.3d 147 (Ala.Crim.App.2014), and were amended on October 1, 2016, to "incorporate the new Class D felonies," to add additional nonviolent crimes to the presumptive sentencing standards, and to "provide information on the new sentencing parameters for all Class C and Class D felony offenses." See Presumptive and Voluntary Sentencing Standards Manual 15.
"'The Presumptive and Voluntary Sentencing Standards Manual, as amended, sets forth the offenses subject to the presumptive sentencing standards and provides circuit courts instructions and worksheets to use in imposing a sentence under the presumptive sentencing standards.'"

State v. Duncan, [Ms. 1170446, Aug. 31, 2018] __ So.3d __ (Ala. 2018) (quoting Duncan v. State, [Ms. CR-16-0890, Dec. 15, 2017] __ So.3d __, __ (Ala.Crim.App.2017)). Regarding Class D felonies, the manual provides, in relevant part:

"If the most serious offense at a sentencing event is a Class D felony and the offender is not sentenced to probation, drug court, or a pretrial diversion program, the offender must be sentenced to a 'split sentence' pursuant to the requirements specified in Ala. Code § 15-18-8(b) and the presumptive sentencing ranges.
"If the most serious offense at a sentencing event is a Class D felony and the offender's presumptive Prison In/Out worksheet recommendation is 'IN,' an Alabama Department of Corrections sentence becomes a sentencing option only if the offender has been previously convicted of any three or more felonies, or previously convicted of any two or more felonies that are Class A or Class B felonies.
"If the most serious offense at a sentencing event is a Class D felony and the offender's presumptive Prison In/Out worksheet recommendation is 'OUT,' a County Jail sentence becomes a sentencing option only if the offender has been previously convicted of any three or more felonies, or previously convicted of any two or more felonies that are Class A or Class B felonies.
"If the most serious offense at a sentencing event is a Class D felony and the offender's presumptive In/Out worksheet recommendation is 'IN,' high-intensity probation under the supervision of the Board of Pardons and Paroles in lieu of community corrections becomes an option only if no community corrections program exists within a county or jurisdiction and no alternative program options are available pursuant to § 15-18-172(e)[, Ala. Code 1975]."

Presumptive and Voluntary Sentencing Standards Manual 27. Examples of non-prison ("OUT") dispositions are probation, community corrections, county jail/work release, reverse split, and a split sentence with a suspended split. Examples of prison ("IN") dispositions are Department of Corrections (prison), community corrections, [2] split to Department of Corrections, split to community corrections, and ...


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