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Defendant Appeals Persistent Felon Sentencing Rule

People v Prindle

2017 New York Slip Op. 05267

June 29, 2017

This appeal deals with a challenge to the discretionary persistent felony offender sentencing protocol. Considering a case called Alleyne v US (133 St. Ct. 2151), the court determines if the current sentences protocol violates due process, the defendant’s 6th amendment rights, and Apprendi. The court upholds the sentencing scheme and finds that the defendant’s rights were not violated.

Citizens are afforded the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury due to the 6th and 14th amendments of the US Constitution. People are required to prove the key elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Included in those elements are facts that will increase the penalties possible for the defendant (Apprendi 530 US at 489-490). The court has been applying Apprendi for the last 20 years with respect to capital punishment cases (Ring v Arizona 536 US 584 [2002], Blake v WA 542 US 296 [2004].

This concept has been challenged many times over the years. The court has consistently held that Penal Law 70.10 is an exception (Almendez-Torrez) and does not apply in relation to the Apprendi rule. This is because it deals with enhanced sentencing of the defendants with two prior felony convictions. Those prior convictions are the “sole determinant” as to whether the defendant will be sentenced as a repeat felony offender.

The statute calls for a 2-step process. The court adjudicates the defendant as a repeat felony offender. Second, the court evaluates the sentence and sets it out on the court record.

The defendant made an argument that by the court extending Apprendi, increasing the mandatory minimum sentencing, requires that we declare the statute violates the 6th amendment. His argument is without merit because the statute never increased the mandatory minimum sentence for felony offender.

The persistent felony offender statute does, however, increase the mandatory minimum sentence for persistent felony offenders. If it is determined that a defendant is a persistent felony offender, the court can sentence the defendant to 15 years in prison, but it is also their discretion to order a sentence as if there was no repeat offense (Rivera 5 NY2d at 68). The people have the burden to show that the defendant deserves a higher sentence.

The court reasoned that even if the defendant was correct in stating that the felony offender statute increased the sentencing for persistent felons, the increase wouldn’t be due to judicial factfinding. The 15-year increase would be based only on the fact that the defendant had two prior felony convictions. The court stated both Alleyne and Apprendi and said there is no principle that raises the maximum sentence from those that increase the minimum sentence.

The court reaffirms the persistent felony offender statute, which falls within the exception that was established in Almendez-Torres.

The court said that sentencing in the present case should follow statutory procedure and that the defendant should be sentenced as a persistent felony offender.

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