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Nichols v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

June 11, 2019

JAMES NICHOLS, Petitioner,
v.
LYNN GUYER, Warden, Montana State Prison, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Self-represented Petitioner James Nichols has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, indicating that he is due an additional credit of 180 days for time served in a sentence from the Twenty-First Judicial District Court, Ravalli County. He attaches several documents including his attempt to correct his judgment with the Ravalli County District Court.

         We provide Nichols's relevant background. On June 15, 2005, he pleaded guilty to felony driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drug (4th offense) (DUI) and three misdemeanors in the Ravalli County District Court. The District Court sentenced him to thirteen months in a residential treatment facility followed by a five-year suspended term. On July 6, 2010, the County Attorney for the State of Montana filed a petition to revoke. Nichols admitted the violations of his probationary terms and conditions. On January 12, 2011, the District Court held a dispositional hearing and revoked Nichols's sentence. The court imposed a five-year commitment to the Department of Corrections to run consecutively to a sentence from Gallatin County (2011 sentence upon revocation).

         In his petition, Nichols explains that he spent 182 days in the Gallatin County jail on a separate charge when, on July 7, 2010, he was served a warrant for his arrest following a petition for revocation of a suspended sentence from the Ravalli County District Court. He states that he was returned to the Ravalli County jail on December 29, 2010. He calculates that he is due this jail time from July 7 through December 29, 2010. He cites to § 46-18-403(1), MCA, and posits that he should be allowed this credit for each day of incarceration. Nichols further explains that on February 15, 2019, he filed a motion for credit for time served in the Ravalli County District Court. He notes that the County Attorney did not oppose the motion in a filed notice. Nichols includes a copy of his filed motion that has a handwritten denial, stating: "Denied Defendant was credited for this in the Gallatin County case." This denial was signed by Judge Langton on March 18, 2019.

         We secured a copy of the Sentencing Order imposed in the Gallatin County District Court, on December 20, 2010. The District Court sentenced Nichols as a persistent felony offender for felony DUI and imposed a twenty-year prison sentence with fifteen years suspended (2010 sentence). The court also awarded Nichols credit of 180 days for time previously served.

         Nichols is not entitled to an additional 180 days of credit toward his 2011 sentence upon revocation. The Ravalli County District Court awarded him twenty-three days of credit while detained prior to imposition of sentence, and on January 2, 2019, the court amended his 2011 sentence upon revocation for twenty-seven days of additional credit at START. Nichols is correct that he should receive credit for time served, pursuant to § 46-18-403(1), MCA, but the credit for jail time must be directly related to the offense. State v. Kime, 2002 MT 38, ¶ 16, 308 Mont. 341, 43 P.3d 290, overruled in part on other grounds by State v. Herman, 2008 MT 187, ¶ 12, 343 Mont. 494, 188 P.3d 978. Here, Nichols was incarcerated because of his new offense in Gallatin County. He is not due additional credit for the time he spent in jail for his 2011 sentence upon revocation because it is not directly related to his offense acquired in 2010. See State v. Damon, 2007 MT 276, ¶ 14, 339 Mont. 413, 170 P.3d 490 (This Court applied § 46-18-403(1), MCA, and held that Damon could only receive credit for time served for the offenses directly related to his incarceration where Damon's new sentence and a sentence upon revocation ran consecutively.). The only way Nichols would receive more credit toward his 2011 sentence upon revocation is if the court were to run it concurrently with his 2010 sentence. Cf. State v. Tracy, 2005 MT 128, ¶¶ 27-28, 327 Mont. 220, 113 P.3d 297, superseded in part by statute. That did not occur here.

         Habeas corpus affords applicants an opportunity to challenge collaterally the legality of their present incarceration. Lott v. State, 2006 MT 279, ¶ 9, 334 Mont. 270, 150 P.3d 337; § 46-22-101(1), MCA. Nichols has not demonstrated an illegal incarceration. Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that Nichols's 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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