Note: We are crunching Supreme Court of Wisconsin decisions down to size. The rule for this is that no justice gets more than 10 paragraphs as written in the actual decision. The "upshot" and "background" sections do not count as part of the 10 paragraphs because of their summary and very necessary nature. We've also removed citations and some statute numbers from the opinion for ease of reading, but have linked to important cases cited or information about them. Italics indicate a WJI insertion. Case names are also in italics.
The case: State v. Cesar Antonio Lira
Majority: Justice Annette K. Ziegler (31 pages) for a unanimous court.
Neither his (Lira's) incarceration in Oklahoma between 2006 and 2017 nor his detention in Wisconsin and Texas between 2005 and 2006 were "in connection with the course of conduct for which [the 1992 and 1999 sentences were] imposed." §973.155(1)(a). Thus, we reverse the court of appeals and conclude that Lira is not entitled to sentence credit.
Over the course of 13 years, Lira transited thousands of miles while fleeing government authorities and committed seven separate offenses in two states.
Lira was sentenced in July 1992 to 10 years' in prison for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. He was paroled September 1996 and was busted on several charges in January 1999, while still on parole. That parole was revoked and Lira went back to prison. He also was convicted of two of the 1999 charges, felon in possession of a firearm and conspiring to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced in Milwaukee County Circuit Court to two years in prison on the felon-in-possession charge. The drug charge brought a sentence of 12 years' probation, concurrent with his incarceration. A 16-year prison sentence was stayed. When he was released from prison in 2001, he was on parole from the 1992 case and probation from the 1999 case.
In November, 2002, Lira fled from the office his Department of Corrections supervising agent when the agent tried to take him into custody for violating his conditions of supervision. Lira had travelled to Illinois without permission and possessed $55,000 in cash.
He was arrested again in 2004 and taken into custody. He also was charged with endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon.
While being transported to a medical appointment on April 15, 2004, Lira fled officers and escaped in an awaiting vehicle with his girlfriend. As a result, Lira was charged with escape. The next day, on April 16, 2004, Lira's parole and probation were revoked. The stay of the 16-year sentence in the 1999 case was removed, and Lira's reconfinement for the 1992 case was ordered.
Meanwhile, Lira was driving with his girlfriend and her child to Oklahoma. Once in Oklahoma, on April 16, 2004, Lira initiated a high-speed car chase with police. Lira ran a road block and crashed the vehicle he was driving. His girlfriend died as a result of the collision. That same day, Oklahoma police arrested Lira. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, eluding police, running a roadblock, and child abuse/neglect. He was sentenced in Oklahoma to 20 years in prison.
Oklahoma transferred Lira to Wisconsin in 2005 to face charges stemming from his 2004 escape and the endangering safety charge that followed. Lira, though, was accidentally released and fled again. He was arrested in Texas and was returned to Wisconsin, where a bail-jumping charge was added to those he already faced. He eventually reached a plea deal to close the Wisconsin cases against him. He was sentenced to three years in prison and three years extended supervision, all to be served after he finished his 20-year sentence in Oklahoma. He was returned Wisconsin in June 2017.
Lira filed a motion in 2018 alleging he was entitled to sentence credit for much of the time he served in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Texas. The motion was denied in Circuit Court, but the Court of Appeals overturned part of that decision and said Lira was entitled to sentence credit for all the time he spent in prison in Oklahoma from April 5, 2006, and June 9, 2017 and for time spent incarcerated in Texas in from May 22, 2005, to April 5, 2006. The state appealed.
Wisconsin Stat. §973.15 establishes miscellaneous guidelines in setting and instituting criminal sentences....
Section 973.155 sets a basic rule for sentence credit determinations: a defendant will receive credit for time spent incarcerated when that time has a factual connection to the offense for which he or she was convicted....
Lira's statutory argument relies on an exceedingly narrow, and ultimately unconvincing, reading of the statute. According to Lira, the statute's requirement that a "convicted offender... made available to another jurisdiction" receives credit toward "his or her Wisconsin sentence" trumps the factual-connection test....
The statutory language unambiguous: credit is due under the provision only if it is warranted under § 973.155, which includes the factual-connection test.... Given that "the meaning of the statute is plain," no further inquiry is necessary.
Lira also claims that this court must accept his legal reasoning because it is supported by published precedent from the court of appeals. (The appeals court was wrong, Ziegler said.)
While respecting court of appeals precedent is an important consideration, it is not determinative....We have shown a repeated willingness to interpret and apply the law correctly, irrespective of a court of appeals decision that came to a different conclusion.
The interpretation of Wis. Stat. § 973.15(5) advanced by Lira would likely undermine, not enhance, interstate cooperation. If a defendant is entitled to sentence credit for the entire time he is in foreign custody so long as he was a "convicted offender" that was "made available to [the other] jurisdiction," Wisconsin authorities would be strongly incentivized to not transfer prisoners to foreign jurisdictions. By doing so, the transfer could effectively eliminate a Wisconsin sentence and produce an improper windfall for a prisoner. For example, if Lira's legal position were correct, someone could commit one murder in Wisconsin and another murder in Oklahoma. If the person received consecutive sentences of the same length for the offenses, and he or she were transferred from Wisconsin to Oklahoma to complete the Oklahoma sentence, the Wisconsin sentence would in effect be erased....
Lira also argues that...he is entitled to sentence credit for time spent in Wisconsin and Texas between May 22, 2005, and April 5, 2006, while on detainer from Oklahoma....
Here, the court of appeals cites a mere procedural connection between the 1992 and 1999 cases and the 2004 endangering safety charge to justify credit. It asserted that the endangering safety charge legally "initiated" Lira's reconfinement for the 1992 and 1999 cases....
Lira is not entitled to sentence credit for any time spent in custody in Wisconsin and Texas between May 22, 2005, and April 5, 2006.
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