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Scriver v. Guyer

Supreme Court of Montana

July 23, 2019

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

          ORDER

         James E. Scriver has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, stating that "[t]he sentencing judge was in error by using MCA 1995 law." Upon review, we ordered a response from counsel for the State of Montana or the Department of Corrections (Department or DOC). Counsel for the Department has filed a response and submits that Scriver should be sentenced under the statutes in effect at the time of the offense.

         We summarize Scriver's history as provided by him and the Department. In November 1995, Scriver was charged with felony sexual assault from the time period of July 1994 through June 1995 of an underaged victim in Teton County. Scriver was later charged with felony theft in the Cascade County District Court for exerting unauthorized control of his employer's property. Scriver absconded and failed to appear for his Teton County charges on September 4, 1996. Scriver was arrested on December 2, 2009, in Wyoming and was returned to Montana to appear for his outstanding charges. The Teton County Attorney charged Scriver by Information with felony bail jumping on the same day of his arrest.

         Scriver entered guilty pleas to both felonies in Teton County District Court's two separate criminal cases. On September 8, 2010, the District Court sentenced Scriver to Montana State Prison (MSP) for twenty years for sexual assault (hereinafter 2010 sentence). Scriver also received a consecutive, five-year term for bail jumping. The Teton County District Court specifically stated that Scriver was restricted from earning good time credit for the first ten years of his sentence, pursuant to § 46-18-202(4), MCA (1995). The court awarded Scriver 459 days of credit for time served. In April 2011, the Cascade County District Court sentenced Scriver to MSP for a concurrent, five-year term with four years suspended (hereinafter Cascade County sentence).

         In his instant petition, Scriver cites to § 53-30-105, MCA, and contends that he should be "accruing good time at a rate of one day for each day served since sentencing on September 15, 2010, plus the 495 days['] time served in County Jail." He states the court relied on § 46-18-202(4), MCA (1995) to sentence him instead of the 1993 version when "the said offense was committed[.]" Scriver explains that "the sentencing judge cited 46-18-202(4) MCA 1995, to deny [him] good time for the first ten (10) years of [his] twenty (20) year sentence." Scriver posits that the denial of his good time is illegal and that he is incarcerated illegally. He requests that he be credited with all the good time spent in prison.

         The Department responds that the 1993 version of this sentencing statute, § 46-18-202, MCA, would apply to Scriver's offenses committed between July 1994 and June 1995. The Department points out the difference between the 1993 and 1995 version of the applicable statute and that no statutory authority existed to restrict good time under the 1993 version of § 46-18-202(4), MCA. The Department puts forth that Scriver's sentence for sexual assault should have not been restricted pursuant to § 46-18-202(4), MCA (1995). The Department concedes that this restriction increases his punishment and thereby, it is an ex post facto application of the law. The Department recommends that Scriver's 2010 sentence be remanded to the Teton County District Court to strike the language restricting good time credit.

         Lastly, the Department points out that Scriver is currently an inmate at MSP and that he remains lawfully incarcerated. The Department raises this point because even with the recalculation of his sentences after determining good time credit, Scriver still has to serve his consecutive, five-year prison term for bail jumping. The Department notes that Scriver has discharged his Cascade County sentence. The Department also points out that Scriver is not entitled to any more credit for jail time credit because he received 459, not 495, days of credit as stated in his judgment; however, the Department adds that Scriver would be entitled to good time credit for this jail time as determined by the MSP Records Department.

         This Court agrees with the Department's response to Scriver's claim about accrual of good time credit, as applied to his 2010 sentence and jail time credit. The sentencing court was without statutory authority to restrict Scriver's good time credit. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA. See also State v. Muhammed, 2002 MT 47, ¶ 24, 309 Mont. 1, 43 P.3d 318 ("[T]he law in effect at the time of the crime controls as to the possible sentence.") (citations omitted). Based on the Department's concession and in light of the foregoing, it is better to remand this matter to strike the illegal provision. State v. Heafner, 2010 MT 87, ¶ 11, 356 Mont. 128, 231 P.3d 1087. Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that Scriver's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is GRANTED in part, and that this matter, Cause No. 95-DC-011, is REMANDED to the Teton County District Court to enter an Amended Order striking the following original language on page 3:

(3) Pursuant to § 46-18-202(4), MCA (1995), Defendant shall be ineligible for any good time allowance for the first ten (10) years of this sentence. For the reasons stated at hearing, this restriction is necessary to hold Defendant fully accountable commensurate with the nature of the offense and the harm caused to the victim and her family.

         The other provisions shall stand.

         The Clerk is directed to provide a copy of this Order to the Honorable Robert G. Olson, Ninth Judicial District Court, Teton County; to Lisa Sinton, Clerk of District Court, Teton County, under Cause No. ...


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