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Dratz v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

May 14, 2019

TIMOTHY R. DRATZ, Petitioner,
v.
LYNN GUYER, Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Timothy R. Dratz has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus along with several attachments, explaining that the sentence calculation by the Montana State Prison's Records Department is in error because it reflects zero credit for time served. In compliance with this Court's April 3, 2019 Order, the Special Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Corrections (Department or DOC) has filed a response for Respondent and Warden Lynn Guyer, recommending denial of his petition because Dratz is legally incarcerated.

         Dratz is currently an inmate at Montana State Prison (MSP) with two sentences from two District Courts. In March 2007, the Missoula County District Court convicted Dratz of three felonies: failure to register as a sexual or violent offender; bail jumping; and forgery. The District Court sentenced him to the DOC for fifteen years with ten years suspended on May 16, 2007. On May 3, 2012, the District Court revoked his suspended sentence upon the State's petition to revoke, and the court sentenced him to a ten-year DOC commitment (hereinafter Missoula County sentence). Dratz was placed at MSP on May 7, 2012.

         Dratz became parole eligible on November 1, 2014, according to sentence calculations of his parole eligibility and discharge dates by the MSP Records Department. MSP calculated that Dratz's prison sentence would discharge on May 1, 2022. Dratz appeared before the Board of Pardons and Parole (Board) on December 16, 2015, and the Board granted him a conditional parole. On May 3, 2016, Dratz was released on parole.

         Dratz incurred new charges in 2018. On September 11, 2018, the Lewis and Clark County Attorney's office charged him by information with felony driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or dangerous drugs, 4th or subsequent offense (DUI), and two misdemeanor offenses in the Lewis and Clark County District Court. Dratz pleaded guilty to DUI. On January 8, 2019, the District Court sentenced him to the DOC for a thirteen-month term, followed by a three-year suspended DOC sentence (hereinafter Lewis and Clark County sentence). The court ordered that his Lewis and Clark County sentence merge with his Missoula County sentence.

         On January 22, 2019, Dratz appeared before the Board because of a report of violation filed by Dratz's supervising Probation and Parole Officer. The Board held a revocation hearing, revoking Dratz's parole in his Missoula County sentence. The Board also ordered that Dratz reappear upon his parole eligibility date.

         On March 28, 2019, Dratz filed his instant petition with this Court. Dratz states that he is due credit of four months and nineteen days for time served in his Lewis and Clark County sentence. He explains that he was arrested on August 20, 2018, and that he was sentenced on January 1, 2019. He adds that because he has not received this credit his entire calculation is wrong, potentially affecting his access to treatment at Warm Springs Addiction Treatment and Change (WATCh). Even though he mentions his concurrent sentences, Dratz contends that his incarceration will be longer than necessary.

         The Department responds that both of Dratz's arguments fail. First, the Department explains that the MSP Records Department did not calculate Dratz's sentence discharge date in error and includes an affidavit from the Manager of the MSP Records Department. The Department points out that a delay exists between the time the offender arrives at MSP after a judgment is entered by a court, and when MSP receives a copy of that certified judgment. The problem here, the Department clarifies, is that the Records Department initially received the Verification of Commitment which did not have a number of days for jail time and had instead "to be determined." This was the basis for the February 1, 2019 calculation. On March 29, 2019, the Department states that Dratz received a copy of the judgment for the Lewis and Clark County sentence verified by his submission of his Offender/Staff Request form to MSP Records Department. The Department points out that Dratz filed his habeas corpus petition with this Court the day before he received this copy. On April 3, 2019, the Department adds that the Records Department let Dratz know that he would receive an updated spreadsheet of his sentence calculation. The Department provides that on April 18, 2019, the Records Department recalculated his sentence and included the jail-time credit based on the certified copy of the final judgment for his Lewis and Clark County sentence. The Department concludes that it has correctly calculated his sentences and that Dratz is lawfully incarcerated.

         The Department next puts forth that Dratz will not serve a longer sentence if he is released from MSP to attend WaTCh. The Department explains that when Dratz was sent to MSP he came under the jurisdiction of the Board, as all inmates do. The Department states that Dratz's argument fails because Dratz must be granted parole to attend the WATCh program, and Dratz will not be parole eligible until he first completes his custodial thirteen-month term for DUI. Section 61-8-73 l(1)(a)(i), MCA. The Department adds that Dratz's custodial sentence for DUI will expire September 18, 2019, and that Dratz's concurrent custodial sentence, or Missoula County sentence, does not discharge until May 1, 2022. The Department reiterates that until Dratz discharges the custodial portion of his Lewis and Clark County sentence, he is not entitled to release, and that he will not be held beyond the custodial portion of his sentence. The Department concludes that Dratz's second argument fails as a matter of law because he would not be illegally restrained beyond the end of his custodial sentence.

         We find the Department's arguments persuasive concerning the invalidity of Dratz's claims. A writ of habeas corpus is available to inquire into the cause of restraint to determine whether it is illegal. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA. We conclude that Dratz has not demonstrated that he has an illegal sentence and, thereby illegal incarceration, because of the Department's recalculation of his sentence which provided his current parole eligibility dates.

         We observe two, loose pleadings in Dratz's handwriting that have not been filed in this Court's file. The pleadings are captioned: "Petition for Writ of Mandamus" and "Petition for Writ of Supervisory Control." Neither document has been served and will be returned to Dratz.

         IT IS ORDERED that Dratz's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is DENIED and DISMISSED.

         The Clerk of the Supreme Court is directed to provide a copy of this Order to counsel of record and to Timothy R. Dratz along ...


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