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State v. Byam

Supreme Court of Vermont

June 9, 2017

State of Vermont
v.
Dale Byam

         On Appeal from Superior Court, Orange Unit, Criminal Division Michael C. Pratt, Acting Superior Judge, Specially Assigned.

          William J. Porter, Orange County State's Attorney, Chelsea, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Matthew F. Valerio, Defender General, and Dawn Matthews, Appellate Defender, Montpelier, for Defendant-Appellant.

          PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Eaton, JJ.

          EATON, J.

         ¶ 1. Defendant appeals the trial court's denial of his motion seeking credit against his sentence for time spent under pretrial conditions of release. Defendant urges this Court to apply a rule, a corollary to our decisions in State v. McPhee, State v. Platt, and State v. Kenvin, that would give him credit for days when he was subject to a twenty-four-hour curfew with exceptions, but when there was no guarantee that he was in fact compliant with the curfew. We decline to adopt defendant's proposed rule and instead adopt a rule under which nonstatutory home detention with a condition-of-release curfew is never sufficiently akin to penal incarceration to justify credit. Although our rationale is different than that applied by the trial court, our result is the same. Accordingly, we affirm.

         ¶ 2. The underlying facts of this case are not in dispute. Defendant was arraigned on July 17, 2013, for aggravated domestic assault and cruelty to a child. The Superior Court, Orange Unit, Criminal Division imposed conditions of pretrial release that included a twenty-four-hour curfew with exceptions only for legal and medical appointments and for emergencies. The court restricted defendant's place of residence to Orange County, though it did not specify a particular address, and prohibited defendant from leaving Orange County. Defendant posted cash bail on December 24, 2013 and moved directly to a residence in Orange County under the court's conditions of release.[1]

         ¶ 3. On March 12, 2014, at defendant's request, the court added two exceptions to his twenty-four-hour curfew. The first allowed him to leave home on Saturdays between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. to check his post office box in Orange County, go to the bank and visit his mother in Washington County, and run errands in Orange and Washington Counties. The second allowed him to visit one of his children at the Children's Hour Program at times ordered by the Washington County Family Division.

         ¶ 4. On November 24, 2014, defendant was arrested in Windsor County after being stopped for driving with a suspended license. The State charged him with five misdemeanors: two counts of violating conditions of release, one count of driving with a suspended license, one count of resisting arrest, and one count of escape. On November 25, 2014, defendant posted bail and the Superior Court, Windsor Unit, Criminal Division released him under conditions that included a twenty-four-hour curfew at his residence with exceptions for medical and legal appointments.[2] On March 15, 2015, the Windsor Unit, Criminal Division transferred the case to the Orange Unit, Criminal Division.

         ¶ 5. On September 23, 2015, defendant pleaded guilty in the Orange Unit, Criminal Division to aggravated domestic assault, cruelty to a child, escape, and violation of conditions of release. Pending sentencing, the court modified defendant's conditions to allow him to serve his curfew at either his own residence or the home of his mother, to again allow him to leave the house on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to travel within Orange and Washington Counties for various purposes, and to authorize him to visit his child in Barre at times ordered by the Washington Unit, Family Division.

         ¶ 6. On October 12, 2015, the Orange Unit, Criminal Division held a sentencing hearing and determined that defendant was not eligible for credit for any of the time that he was released pursuant to conditions that included a curfew. The court concluded that the conditions of release throughout the entire period in question "were not comparable to confinement." The court reasoned that defendant was allowed to choose his place of residence within Orange County, was not under supervision, and was allowed to make "as few or as many legal and medical appointments as would be reasonable, and to do so at places and times of his choosing."

         ¶ 7. A summary of the most restrictive conditions in place during the various periods is as follows:

12/24/13-3/11/14

Reside in Orange County; twenty-four-hour curfew except for legal and medical appointments and emergencies.

3/12/14-11/23/14[3]

Reside in Orange County; twenty-four-hour curfew except for legal and medical appointments and emergencies; curfew lifted from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on Saturdays to visit his mother and for errands in Orange or Washington County; curfew lifted to allow supervised parent-child contact with his children at times ordered by the Washington Family Division.

11/25/14-9/22/15

Reside in Orange County; twenty-four-hour curfew except for legal and medical appointments.

9/23/15-10/12/15

Reside in Orange County; twenty-four-hour curfew at defendant's residence or his mother's home in Washington County, except for legal and medical appointments and emergencies; curfew lifted from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on Saturdays for errands in Orange or Washington County; curfew lifted to allow supervised parent-child contact with his children at times ordered by the Washington Unit, Family Division.

         ¶ 8. The question on appeal is whether defendant is entitled to credit toward service of his sentence under 13 V.S.A. § 7031 for any of the time he spent prior to his sentencing under conditions of release that included a twenty-four-hour curfew. Our analysis raises two subsidiary issues: (1) under what circumstances is a defendant subject to a twenty-four-hour curfew with limited exceptions "in custody" for purposes of granting statutory credit against a sentence; and (2) in determining whether a defendant is entitled to credit against a sentence, should a court consider the constraints on the defendant's liberty on a day-by-day basis, or a ...


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