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Lajeunesse v. Kowalski

Supreme Court of Montana

October 24, 2017

DUANE LAJEUNESSE, Petitioner,
v.
CAPTAIN JASON KOWALSKI, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Duane Lajeunesse seeks his immediate release because he claims that his sentence is longer than the law allows. He is presently placed in the Missoula Assessment and Sanction Center (MASC).

         Available electronic records indicate that Lajeunesse originally had two convictions and sentences from Custer County.

         In March 2011, Lajeunesse pled guilty to several offenses The Sixteenth Judicial District Court, Custer County, sentenced Lajeunesse to the Department of Corrections (DOC) for felony criminal endangerment for a suspended, ten-year period and additionally committed him to the DOC for felony intimidation for a concurrentj suspended, ten-year term Lajeunesse also received a six-month jail term for misdemeanor assault In May 2012, the Custer County District Court revoked both sentences because of probationary violations The court imposed two, concurrent commitments to the DOC for ten years, with six years suspended (2012 sentences upon revocation).

         While serving this probationary term, Lajeunesse committed a new offense of felony aggravated assault in Lewis and Clark County in March 2017. On May 8, 2017, the Custer County District Court revoked both six-year sentences based upon Lajeunesse's admission of violations for alcohol or drug use. The court committed him to the DOC for two, concurrent six-year terms, with no time suspended (2017 sentences upon revocation).

         The First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County, accepted Lajeunesse's guilty plea to the amended charge of felony criminal endangerment on June 14, 2017. The District Court sentenced him to the DOC for a five-year, suspended term and ran this sentence consecutively to the 2017 sentences upon revocation. Lajeunesse received credit for time served in jail from March 29, 2017, through June 14, 2017.

         Lajeunesse states four reasons why his incarceration is illegal. He asserts that he was held unlawfully in the Lewis and Clark County Detention Facility because his "cases had been closed" while awaiting a bed date in MASC. He claims to have an e-mail from the Clerk of District Court stating that his cases were closed and that his "rights were being violated." He challenges the time that he spent in this jail because he "was never booked ... on the probation revocation warrant from Custer County." He argues that Probation and Parole officers conducted an illegal search of the apartment which he shared with his mother. Lastly, he contends that his 2017 sentences upon revocation are longer than the law allows and violate his due process rights.

         Lajeunesse's arguments lack merit. His judgments specifically refer Lajeunesse to the custody of the DOC and list the probation conditions. Section 46-23-1001(4), MCA. Montana statutes outline the DOC Probation and Parole's authority for supervision of offenders serving the suspended portion of a sentence. See § 46-23-1001, MCA, through §46-23-1032, MCA. Probation and Parole officers have authority to supervise probationers, including searches of a probationer's residence. Section 46-23-1011, MCA; Admin. R. M. 20.7.1101(1) (2008). Probation and Parole officers may arrest a probationer when violations are alleged and return "the probationer to any suitable detention center." Section 46-23-1012(1), MCA. A probation offender may be held in jail for seventy-two hours before a bail hearing. Section 46-23-1012(3), MCA. Once the District Court receives a filed report of violation, the court may "proceed with revocation of probation in the manner provided in 46-18-203." Section 46-23-1012(5), MCA. Pursuant to § 46-18-203(7)(a)(iii), MCA, the Custer County District Court revoked Lajeunesse's sentences again in 2017.

         While the District Courts may have "closed" his case files, Lajeunesse still has to complete his sentences on his judgments. It should be noted that his Custer County cases were not "closed" in March 2017 because he was still serving the suspended portion of the 2012 sentences upon revocation. He was detained in the Lewis and Clark County Detention Facility on a new bailable offense, for which he received credit for this time served. Section 46-18-403(1), MCA. He also received credit for time served from March 29 through May 8 against his 2017 sentences upon revocation. His due process rights were not violated because he was given notice of his probation revocation, had representation by counsel, and was afforded separate court proceedings in both counties.

         Lajeunesse is doubly constrained here because his claims lack merit and are procedurally barred. His 2017 sentences upon revocation are not any longer than the sentences originally imposed. State v. Haagenson, 2010 MT 95, ¶¶ 15-16, 356 Mont. 177, 232 P.3d 367. The revocation court has only required Lajeunesse, who violated the conditions of his probation supervision, to successfully complete two, concurrent six-year sentences-as originally imposed. Section 46-18-203(7)(a)(iii), MCA. Section 46-22-101(2), MCA, states that habeas corpus "relief under this chapter is not available to attack the legality of an order revoking a suspended or deferred sentence." Hence, he is statutorily precluded from seeking habeas corpus relief from orders revoking suspended sentences.

         Lajeunesse does not have illegal sentences. His sentences are valid. Accordingly,

IT IS ORDERED that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.

         The Clerk is directed to provide a copy of this Order to counsel of record, ...


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