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Double Jeopardy – Sentence: Modification – Four Months After Sentencing, As Violating Expectation of Finality

State v. Guy R. Willett, 2000 WI App 212, 238 Wis.2d 621, 618 N.W.2d 881
For Willett: Susan E. Alesia, SPD, Madison Appellate

Issue: Whether the trial court had authority to change its sentences from concurrent to consecutive to a separately imposed sentence, four months later, after concluding that its sentencing was based on an erroneous understanding of the law.

Holding: Although the trial court clearly wanted its sentences to run consecutive to a separately imposed sentence, the court (erroneously) believed that it lacked that authority, and therefore imposed its sentences concurrent with the other sentence. When the error was pointed out, the court modified the sentence structure four months later, so that its sentences would run consecutive to the other sentence. Given that Willett was four months into his sentence and that the trial court (even if based on misconstruction of its authority) imposed a valid, concurrent sentence, “a legitimate expectation of finality” vested in that sentence, and double jeopardy therefore precludes its increase. ¶6.

Like effect: U.S. v. Robinson, 6th Cir. No. 03-4593, 5/21/04 (though federal sentencing court can at any time correct “clerical error” in judgment, this authority doesn’t extend to “the vindication of the court’s unexpressed sentencing expectations, or for the correction of errors made by the court itself”).

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