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Asfaha v. State

July 24, 2003

FITHI CHERNET ASFAHA, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

A criminal defendant who, as a condition of probation, is required to complete treatment at a residential treatment facility is entitled to receive jail credit if the district court makes specific findings that the level of confinement and limitations imposed are the functional equivalent of a jail, workhouse, or regional correctional facility.

Reversed.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blatz, Chief Justice

OPINION

Appellant Fithi Chernet Asfaha, a juvenile, was certified as an adult, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, and received a 98-month sentence. The sentence was stayed and he was placed on probation. As one of his probation conditions, the district court ordered Asfaha to successfully complete treatment at a residential treatment facility. Subsequently, Asfaha violated his probation and the court executed his 98-month sentence.

Concluding that placement at the residential treatment facility was functionally equivalent to placement at a juvenile correctional facility, the court granted Asfaha jail credit for the 288 days spent in the residential treatment facility. On appeal, the court of appeals held that the sentencing guidelines do not allow jail credit for time served in a residential treatment facility and reversed the district court. In this appeal, Asfaha challenges the denial of jail credit on two grounds. First, Asfaha contends that to insure proportionality in sentencing, the appropriate test for granting jail credit should be whether the defendant is in custody and not simply the official name of the facility. Second, Asfaha asserts that awarding jail credit to some and not other similarly situated individuals violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions. Because we hold that fairness and equity require jail credit be granted for confinement in facilities that are the functional equivalent of a jail, workhouse, or regional correctional facility, we reverse the court of appeals and reinstate the district court's ruling.

On May 7, 1996, Asfaha, then age 16, was certified as an adult pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 260.125 (1996) (repealed and reenacted by Act of May 11, 1999, ch. 139, art. 2, §á11, art. 4, § 3, 1999 Minn. Laws 583, 589-591, 692, codified at Minn. Stat. § 260B.125 (2002)) and, as part of a plea agreement, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree assault under Minn. Stat. § 609.221 (1994) (current version at Minn. Stat. § 609.221, subd. 1 (2002)). At the time, Asfaha was on probation for several juvenile offenses for which he had been adjudicated delinquent. As part of the plea agreement, the state agreed to recommend a stay of execution of the presumptive prison sentence provided that Asfaha complete the previously imposed juvenile probation conditions, as well as those probation conditions imposed in the present case. The stay was also contingent on Asfaha testifying truthfully against the two co-defendants in the underlying case.

One of the probation conditions imposed was that Asfaha enter and successfully complete the Intensive Treatment Center program (ITC) at the Bar-None facility (Bar-None) in Anoka, Minnesota, a locked program for juveniles with severe conduct disorder.*fn1 Asfaha entered the ITC on June 13, 1996 and, while in the program, resided in the Lakeview living unit in the ITC building. The literature describing the ITC provides that placement in the program is court-ordered and is for juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent and often have a history of numerous therapeutic interventions and placement failures. The literature further notes that the ITC "provides a high level of security to guarantee public safety and to assure that residents remain in the program while in treatment." Asfaha spent 288 days in the ITC, successfully completing the program on March 28, 1997.*fn2

After his discharge from Bar-None, Asfaha violated several conditions of his probation, leading the district court to revoke probation and execute the prison sentence. At the September 12, 2001 revocation hearing, Asfaha requested jail credit for the 288 days he spent in the ITC. The district court granted his request, concluding that although Bar-None is a residential treatment facility, the restrictions imposed at the ITC program were the functional equivalent of those imposed at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing, and that denial of jail credit would be inequitable and a violation of equal protection. The court of appeals reversed the district court and held that because "the sentencing guidelines expressly deny jail credit for time served in 'residential treatment facilities,' " Asfaha could not receive credit for any time spent at Bar-None regardless of the level of security and punitive impact of the program. Asfaha v. State, No. C6-02-691, 2002 WL 1803827, at *3 (Minn. App. Aug. 6, 2002). It is from this decision that Asfaha appeals.

On appeal, Asfaha contends that jail credit for his time spent in the ITC should be awarded on two grounds. First, Asfaha asserts that to ensure proportionality in sentencing, the award of jail credit should not depend on whether the defendant is confined in "jails, workhouses, [or] regional correctional facilities" but instead should depend on whether the defendant was in custody in connection with the offense. Because the district court found that Asfaha's confinement while in the ITC was the functional equivalent of confinement in the juvenile correctional facility in Red Wing, Asfaha asserts that he should receive credit for the 288 days he spent there. Second, Asfaha contends that "giv[ing] different amounts of jail credit to adults confined for similar amounts of time for similar offenses" results in disproportionate sentencing and violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions.

We begin our analysis by examining the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. As originally promulgated by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, the guidelines' jail credit provision excluded credit for time spent in confinement as a condition of probation. Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, Report to the Legislature 36 (1980).*fn3 When we amended Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 4(B) in 1983 to include jail credit for time spent in custody as a condition of probation, the sentencing guidelines were modified to include a similar credit. Minnesota Supreme Court Order Promulgating Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure (June 9, 1983); see Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines III.C (1984). The corresponding commentary to the amended guidelines stated that credit was to be "limited to time spent in jails, workhouses, and regional correctional facilities." Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines III.C.02 comment (1984). However, in 1999, this limitation originally set forth in the commentary was incorporated into the text of the sentencing guidelines and is in the current version of the jail credit provision. Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines III.C.3.

Accordingly, with regard to confinement while on probation, the sentencing guidelines currently provide that:

Jail credit shall reflect time spent in confinement as a condition of a stayed sentence when the stay is later revoked and the offender is committed to the custody of the Commissioner of Corrections. Such credit is limited to time ...


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