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State v. Barrientos

Supreme Court of Minnesota

September 25, 2013

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Malena Maria Barrientos, Respondent

Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Craig S. Nelson, Freeborn County Attorney, David J. Walker, Assistant Freeborn County Attorney, Albert Lea, Minnesota, for appellant.

David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Sean Michael McGuire, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

SYLLABUS

A district court may extend a term of probation up to the statutory maximum when a probationer fails to pay the full amount of restitution by the end of the originally imposed probation term. The district court's authority to do so is not limited by Minn. Stat. § 609.135, subd. 2(g) (2012).

Reversed and remanded.

OPINION

WRIGHT, Justice.

In this case, we address the parameters of a district court's authority to extend the length of a defendant's probation for failure to pay court-ordered restitution. The district court concluded that Minn. Stat. § 609.135, subd. 2(g) (2012), limited its authority to grant an extension based on unpaid restitution to two separate one-year periods. The State appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. We conclude that Minn. Stat. §§ 609.135, subd. 1a, and 609.14 (2012), grant a district court authority to extend a term of probation up to the statutory maximum based on a defendant's failure to pay restitution by the end of the originally imposed probation term. We therefore reverse.

Respondent Malena Maria Barrientos pleaded guilty to a single count of second-degree burglary. On June 2, 2006, the district court imposed a sentence of 23 months in prison, stayed the execution of that sentence, and placed Barrientos on probation for five years with an expiration date of June 1, 2011. The probation was subject to a number of conditions, including that Barrientos seek and maintain employment and pay restitution in an amount to be determined. Following a hearing, the district court ordered Barrientos to pay restitution of $21, 437.60 in payments of not less than $230 per month until the total amount was paid in full. In 2010, after Barrientos failed to make the vast majority of payments ordered, the district court reduced the minimum monthly restitution payments to $50.

On April 1, 2011, the probation officer submitted a progress report to the district court in anticipation of the expiration of Barrientos's probation term. The report indicated that Barrientos had completed all of her conditions, except the payment of restitution. Although Barrientos had complied with the district court's revised payment schedule of $50 per month, she still owed $20, 894. The probation officer recommended discharging Barrientos from probation at the expiration of her term and turning over the restitution balance to collections or reducing it to a judgment. The State, however, moved to extend Barrientos's probation for an additional five years based on the unpaid restitution.

On May 3, 2011, the district court held a hearing at which Barrientos appeared pro se. The district court granted the State's motion and extended Barrientos's probation to facilitate continued payment of restitution. The district court reasoned that restitution was "a critical element of [Barrientos's] sentence and probation" and that, at her current rate of pay, it would take her more than 34 years to pay the remaining balance. The court, therefore, extended the term of probation for five years.

Approximately seven months later, Barrientos appeared before the district court in response to allegations that she had violated her probation conditions by failing to seek and maintain employment and failing to attend group supervision meetings. Barrientos, now represented by counsel, moved to amend the district court's order extending her probation by reducing the extension from five years to one year. Barrientos argued that Minn. Stat. § 609.135, subd. 2(g), authorizes only two one-year extensions of probation based on the failure to pay restitution and that the district court therefore lacked authority to extend her probation beyond that limited one-year term. The State countered that the district court has inherent authority to extend a term of probation up to the statutory maximum and that section 609.135, subdivision 2(g), merely provides additional authority to extend probation for two one-year terms beyond the otherwise applicable statutory maximum.

The district court agreed with Barrientos and, on January 9, 2012, issued an order amending the extension of probation from five years to one year, resulting in a new probation expiration date of June 1, 2012. The State appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. State v. Barrientos, 816 N.W.2d 675 (Minn.App. 2012). The court of appeals concluded that Minn. Stat. § 609.135, subd. 2(g), "authorizes the district court, after a hearing, only to increase a probationary term by up to two one-year periods when a defendant fails to pay court-ordered restitution" and that the district court, therefore, was required to limit the extension of Barrientos's probation term to only one year and to refuse to extend it to the statutory maximum. Barrientos, 816 N.W.2d at 678.

While the State's appeal was pending, Barrientos's probation term expired and the district court ordered her discharged from probation. The district court acknowledged that the State had appealed the January 9, 2012 order to this court and stated in the discharge order that: "[i]f the [Minnesota] Supreme Court reverses the Court of Appeals the Defendant may be reinstated to the terms and conditions of probation."

I.

The State argues that Minn. Stat. § 609.14 grants district courts general authority to extend a defendant's probation period up to the statutory maximum when she violates the terms or conditions of probation (including payment of restitution), and that section 609.135, subdivision 2(g), expands that general grant of authority to allow two additional one-year extensions beyond the statutory maximum in the specific situation in which a defendant fails to pay restitution. Barrientos argues that, even if the district court may generally extend a term of probation up to the statutory maximum for a violation of the probation conditions, section 609.135, subdivision 2(g), is an exception to that general rule and limits the district court's authority to extend probation based on failure to pay restitution. She argues that the more specific and later-enacted[1] provisions of section 609.135, subdivision 2(g), govern over the general provisions of section 609.14.

Resolution of the issues in this case requires the interpretation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.135 and 609.14. Statutory interpretation presents a question of law, which we review de novo. State v. Hodges, 784 N.W.2d 827, 830 (Minn. 2009). The object of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the Legislature. State v. Larson, 605 N.W.2d 706, 713-14 (Minn. 2000); accord Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (2012). When the text of the law is unambiguous, we apply the plain meaning of the statutory language without engaging in any further construction. Minn. Stat. § 645.16; State v. Bluhm, 676 N.W.2d 649, 651 (Minn. 2004); Gomon v. Northland Family Physicians, Ltd., 645 N.W.2d 413, 416 ...


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