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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Utah

September 13, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
Gregory Emmanuel Williams, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Paul B. Parker No. 161900235

          Alexandra S. McCallum and Lance L. Talakai, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Kris C. Leonard, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Diana Hagen concurred.

          HARRIS, Judge:

         ¶1 After Gregory Emmanuel Williams pled guilty to three separate property crimes, the district court sentenced him to prison. He appeals his sentence, arguing that one of his convictions was improperly enhanced from a misdemeanor to a felony, and that the court violated Williams's rights against double jeopardy and abused its discretion by sentencing him to prison on the other two convictions. We agree with Williams that the sentence on his first conviction was improperly enhanced, and therefore vacate the district court's sentencing order on that count and remand for resentencing. We affirm Williams's sentence on his other two convictions.


         ¶2 In 2014, Williams broke into a vehicle in a parking garage and stole property from the vehicle. Williams's actions were captured by a surveillance camera, and law enforcement officers later apprehended Williams with the stolen property in his possession. After being charged with multiple offenses, Williams pled guilty to a single charge: burglary of a vehicle. Under Utah law, burglary of a vehicle is a class A misdemeanor, and there are no statutory provisions permitting enhancement of the offense. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-204(2) (LexisNexis 2017). Both the prosecutor and Williams's attorney, however, were apparently under the mistaken impression that the offense could be enhanced due to prior convictions, and agreed that Williams-who had similar prior convictions-was pleading guilty to a third-degree felony. The court entered the plea as a third-degree felony, and sentenced Williams accordingly: the court imposed a zero-to-five-year prison term but suspended that sentence and ordered Williams to serve a year in jail and complete an inpatient treatment program for drug addiction upon release. Williams was subsequently released to an inpatient treatment program, and placed on probation.

         ¶3 In late 2015, while Williams was still on probation, law enforcement officers found Williams sleeping in a vehicle with the motor running. The officers saw prescription amphetamines, later determined to be prescribed to someone other than Williams, in plain view in the vehicle, and observed that Williams was incoherent and struggling to stay awake. Officers determined that Williams was unable to safely perform field sobriety tests and therefore placed him under arrest; they later also found methamphetamine, syringes, and stolen property in the vehicle. After initially being taken into custody, Williams was released pending trial.

         ¶4 Approximately one month later, law enforcement officers performing an exterior patrol of the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City heard the sound of breaking glass. The officers went towards the sound and observed Williams "jumping through the back passenger side window" of a vehicle. The officers then witnessed Williams leaving the vehicle with "both arms full of property." At this point, officers identified themselves and told Williams to stop. In response, Williams dropped the property, got into a vehicle parked nearby, and drove away from the officers. The vehicle, which turned out to be stolen, ran out of gas only a few blocks away, and Williams was subsequently apprehended.

         ¶5 Facing charges for both of the 2015 incidents, Williams pled guilty to one count of theft by receiving stolen property, a third-degree felony, and one count of attempted theft, a third-degree felony, in exchange for dismissal of all the remaining charges. At sentencing, after reviewing Williams's record, the district court indicated that it was inclined to "try something else" other than prison and inquired about placing Williams in "The Other Side Academy," a local rehabilitation program. After some discussion, the court then indicated that it would not send Williams to prison, but instead would suspend his prison terms and place Williams on probation for five years, and require Williams to, among other things, serve up to one year in jail and then enter into The Other Side Academy and successfully complete the program there. The court then asked if anyone had any questions about the sentence, and the probation officer asked what would happen if The Other Side Academy was not willing or able to take Williams, and whether that would constitute a violation of the terms and conditions of probation. In response, the court stated that it was "not sure if anything but prison is an option if" the program refused to accept Williams, and that the issue raised regarding whether that would constitute a probation violation was "a valid concern." The court then stated: "Let's not finish sentencing here. I will continue sentencing out for 60 days so we can get a firm answer" about whether Williams would be accepted into the program. The court then told Williams that it was trying to get him in the program but that, if Williams was unable to obtain admission, the court did not "know another option other than prison." The court then continued the sentencing hearing, stating specifically that it was "continuing everything in this sentencing." The court entered no order imposing sentence following that hearing.

         ¶6 A few weeks later, at the continued sentencing hearing, Williams revealed that he had been unable to get into The Other Side Academy. Williams requested that the court nonetheless place him on probation and permit him to participate in a different treatment program. The court declined that invitation, and instead sentenced Williams to two concurrent zero-to-five-year prison terms for both of Williams's convictions stemming from the 2015 incidents. The court also noted that Williams was on probation for the 2014 vehicular burglary, which had been entered as a third-degree felony, and sentenced Williams to a concurrent zero-to-five-year prison term as a consequence of violating the terms of his probation on that charge.


         ¶7 Williams appeals, and asks us to consider three issues. First, Williams contends that his conviction for vehicular burglary was unlawfully enhanced from a class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.[1] Whether an imposed sentence is illegal presents a question of law that we ...

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