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People v. Beard

Court of Appeals of Michigan

April 25, 2019

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THOMAS RAY BEARD, Defendant-Appellee.

          Oakland Circuit Court LC No. 2017-264893-FH

          Before: Shapiro, P.J., and Beckering and M. J. Kelly, JJ.

          Shapiro, J.

         The prosecution appeals by leave granted[1] an amended judgment of sentence entered by the trial court. For the reasons stated below, we vacate the amended judgment of sentence.

         I.

         While on parole for an unarmed robbery conviction, defendant was arrested for domestic violence. He pleaded no contest to domestic violence, third offense, MCL 750.81(5), which is a felony.[2] On February 15, 2018, the trial court sentenced defendant to a year in jail. At sentencing, the court stated that the sentence was "consecutive to a parole violation." The judgment of sentence also stated, "Sentence consecutive to parole violation." (Capitalization omitted). But the judgment of sentence provided that defendant's sentence would begin on February 15, 2018.

         As a result of his parole violation, defendant returned to prison to serve the remaining few months of his prior sentence for unarmed robbery. He was discharged on August 17, 2018, and transferred to Oakland County Jail.

          On October 17, 2018, defendant filed a motion to amend the judgment of sentence or for issuance of a habeas corpus writ. Defendant explained that the Oakland County Jail was interpreting the judgment of sentence to mean that his domestic-violence sentence began when he arrived at the jail on August 17, not on February 15 as provided by the judgment of sentence. Defendant requested that the trial court remove the "consecutive to parole violation" language from the judgment of sentence.

         After hearing oral argument, the trial court agreed with defendant that his sentence for domestic violence should have begun to run on the date of sentencing. Accordingly, it granted defendant's motion and amended the judgment of sentence to provide, "Sentence consecutive to parole violation. Defendant shall begin to accrue time on the 365 day sentence on February 15, 2018." (Capitalization omitted).

         II.

         A.

         As an initial matter, the prosecutor argues that defendant's motion to amend the judgment of sentence was untimely. The prosecutor did not raise this issue before the trial court, but contends on appeal that the issue has not been waived because it pertains to the trial court's jurisdiction. The prosecutor does not provide caselaw holding that a trial court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to consider untimely post-trial motions. However, even if we accept this premise as true, we conclude that defendant's motion was not untimely.

         The prosecutor argues that defendant's motion should be construed as motion to correct an invalid sentence, which generally must be filed within six months of the entry of the judgment of sentence. See MCR 6.429(B)(3)(a). We conclude, however, that defendant's motion to amend the judgment of sentence is better understood as motion to correct a clerical mistake, i.e., an error "arising from oversight or omission," which may be brought at any time. See MCR 6.435(A).

         To determine the nature of a filing, we look through the party's labels and focus on the substance of the filing. See Altobelli v Hartmann, 499 Mich. 284, 299; 884 N.W.2d 537 (2016). Here, it is clear that defendant was not seeking to correct an invalid sentence imposed by the court but rather was attempting to enforce the imposed sentence. The trial court agreed with defendant that the Oakland County Jail's interpretation of the "sentence begins" date was incorrect and amended the judgment of sentence accordingly. Further, there was plainly an ambiguity in the original judgment of sentence because the imposed sentence was consecutive to the parole violation but also set to run from the date of sentencing. Indeed, both defendant and the prosecutor requested an amendment to the judgment of sentence. For those ...


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