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A grand jury indicted Defendant-Appellant Daniel Lute for "battery with the intent to commit a serious felony," specifically "rape and/or kidnapping." A judgment of conviction was entered, sentencing Defendant to five years in prison to run concurrently with a sentence Defendant was already serving. The judgment did not specify which serious felony Defendant had intended to commit when he committed the battery. Approximately nine years after the expiration of Defendant's sentence, Defendant filed an ICR 35 motion: the Department of Corrections' records incorrectly showed Defendant had committed a sex crime. Defendant wanted to eliminate confusion. The district court granted Defendant's request, and the judgment was amended to reflect the correct sentence. Five months later, Defendant filed a second ICR 35 motion arguing his sentence was invalid under Idaho law, and that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it entered the judgment, because the grand jury's term had expired at the time he was indicted. The district court denied Defendant's second ICR 35 motion; the appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court granted Defendant's petition for review, and found that the district court did not have jurisdiction to convict Defendant when the grand jury indicted him. The Court reversed and remanded the case to the lower court to vacate Defendant's conviction.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO
Docket no. 37394
STATE OF IDAHO,
Boise, April 2011 Term
2011 Opinion No. 50
Filed: April 20, 2011
DANIEL FRANCIS LUTE,
Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk
Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada
County. Hon. Ronald J. Wilper, District Judge.
District court denial of ICR 35 motion to correct illegal sentence, reversed.
Daniel Francis Lute, Boise, pro se appellant.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
This case arises on appeal from the district court’s denial of Daniel Lute’s Idaho Criminal
Rule 35 motion for correction of an illegal sentence. Lute argues that the grand jury that indicted
him was acting without authority as its commission had expired and, therefore, the district court
had no subject matter jurisdiction over his case and could not properly enter a Judgment of
conviction. Lute further argues that the conviction underlying his sentence is for something that
is not a crime in Idaho and, as such, any sentence given for such conduct is necessarily illegal.
We reverse the district court’s denial of Lute’s I.C.R. 35 motion and remand with instructions to
grant the motion and vacate Lute’s conviction, consistent with this opinion.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On May 6, 1993, a grand jury indicted Lute for the offense of “Battery with the Intent to
Commit a Serious Felony”, specifically “rape and/or kidnapping.” Following his arraignment,
Lute entered into a plea agreement with the State, under which Lute agreed to plead guilty and
the State agreed to amend the indictment to eliminate reference to “rape”, with the resulting
charge reading “Battery with the Intent to Commit a Serious Felony, [to wit], Kidnapping, I.C. §
18-911.” The judge used handwritten strike throughs to amend the indictment, eliminating any
reference to rape. A judgment of conviction was entered on August 17, 1993, sentencing Lute to
five years fixed, to run concurrently with a sentence that Lute was already serving.
judgment did not specify which serious felony Lute intended to commit when he committed
On August 30, 2007, approximately nine years after the expiration of Lute’s sentence,
Lute filed an I.C.R. 35 motion for correction or reduction of sentence. Lute complained that the
records of the Idaho Department of Corrections showed that he had been convicted of a sex
crime, and requested that the judgment be amended to eliminate this confusion. The district
court granted Lute’s request, 1 amending the judgment to read that Lute had been convicted for
“Battery with Intent to Commit a Serious Felony, to wit, Kidnapping, I.C. §§ 18-903, 18-911.”
On January 29, 2008, Lute filed a second I.C.R. 35 motion, arguing that his sentence was
invalid because the crime he pled guilty to was not proscribed in the Idaho Code. Lute also
argued that the district court was without subject matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction
when it entered the judgment, because the term of the grand jury had already expired at the time
he was indicted. The State acknowledged that the grand jury’s term had expired at the time of
Lute’s indictment, but argued that the defect was not jurisdictional and was waived by Lute when
he entered into a Rule 11 plea agreement and pled guilty to the amended indictment.
The district court denied Lute’s January 29, 2008, motion, finding that a validly entered
guilty plea rendered the procedural defects in the grand jury indictment harmless, and no
jurisdictional defect existed. Lute appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Lute filed a
petition for review, which this Court granted.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
When reviewing a case on petition for review from the Court of Appeals this Court gives
due consideration to the decision reached by the Court of Appeals, but directly reviews the
decision of the trial court. State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 84, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009).
Idaho Criminal Rule 35 allows a trial court to correct an illegal sentence at any time. Id. As a
general matter, it is a question of law as to whether a sentence is illegal or was imposed in an
It is unclear whether the district court amended the judgment on the basis of I.C.R. 35 or I.C.R. 36.
illegal fashion, and this Court exercises free review over questions of law. Id. Jurisdiction is
likewise a question of law and is reviewed de novo. State v. Barros, 131 Idaho 379, 381, 957
P.2d 1095, 1097 (1998).
The crux of this appeal is jurisdiction. We must determine whether the district court had
subject matter jurisdiction to consider the charges filed against Lute when the grand jury that
indicted him was acting without legal authority. If we find that the district court had subject
matter jurisdiction over the case initially, then this Court must determine whether the district
court had subject matter jurisdiction to grant the relief requested by Lute under his I.C.R. 35
motion where Lute attacked the conviction itself, not merely the sentence.
A. Lute’s appeal is not moot.
The State argues that Lute’s appeal is moot because Lute brought his I.C.R. 35 motion
over fourteen years after his five year sentence was entered, and that sentence was fully
completed prior to his filing of the I.C.R. 35 motion. The State contends that I.C.R. 35 does not
grant the district court authority to grant relief for a sentence that has been served in its entirety.
Lute responds that it is well established under Idaho law that the completion of a sentence does
not make a felony conviction moot.
“An issue becomes moot if it does not present a real and substantial controversy that is
capable of being concluded through judicial decree of specific relief.” Koch v. Canyon Cnty.,
145 Idaho 158, 163, 177 P.3d 372, 377 (2008) (quotation omitted). In Butler v. State, 129 Idaho
899, 901, 935 P.2d 162, 164 (1997), this Court held that “a felony conviction has collateral
consequences and the fact that [an appellant] has fully served his sentence does not moot [that
appellant’s] appeal.” Abrogated on other grounds by Rhoades v. State, 149 Idaho 130, __, 233
P.3d 61, 68 (2010). This is in line with the United States Supreme Court’s statement that “a
criminal case is moot only if it is shown that there is no possibility that any collateral legal
consequences will be imposed on the basis of the challenged conviction.” Sibron v. New York,
392 U.S. 40, 57 (1968). The State has offered no such showing here.
The State contends that I.C.R. 35 grants courts the limited jurisdictional power to
consider whether a sentence is illegal, and where the sentence itself has been completed a court
is powerless to take any meaningful corrective action under I.C.R. 35—as the appellant will not
have his grievance addressed by any modification of that sentence. However, where there is a
jurisdictional defect, this court has authority to address that issue, even if it is not raised by the
State v. Kavajecz, 139 Idaho 482, 483, 80 P.3d 1083, 1084 (2003).
Furthermore, “[w]here it is apparent from the record that the act the defendant was criminally
convicted for is not a crime according to the laws of the state, this Court has the authority to
vacate the convictions sua sponte . . . .” Id. at 484, 80 P.3d at 1085.
“Absent a statute or rule extending its jurisdiction, the trial court’s jurisdiction to amend
or set aside a judgment expires once the judgment becomes final, either by expiration of the time
for appeal or affirmance of the judgment on appeal.” State v. Jakoski, 139 Idaho 352, 355, 79
P.3d 711, 714 (2003). However, where a court properly has jurisdiction to consider a case—as it
does here to consider Lute’s I.C.R. 35 motion—and it is apparent that there is an issue
concerning subject matter jurisdiction or that a defendant was convicted for something that is not
a crime, this Court must correct that error. See Kavajecz, 139 Idaho at 483–84, 80 P.3d at 1084–
B. The district court did not have jurisdiction to convict Lute when the grand jury that
indicted him was acting without authority.
Article I, section 8 of the Idaho Constitution states, inter alia, “[n]o person shall be held
to answer for any felony or criminal offense of any grade, unless on presentment or indictment of
a grand jury or on information of the public prosecutor . . . .” Under what was previously I.C.R.
6(j), and is now I.C.R. 6.8, “no grand jury shall serve more than six (6) months unless
specifically ordered by the court which summoned the grand jury.” “An indictment issued by a
grand jury whose term is up and has not been validly extended is void . . . .” United States v.
Daniels, 902 F.2d 1238, 1240 (7th Cir. 1990). As this Court stated in State v. Urrabazo:
“Subject matter jurisdiction is the power to determine cases over a general
type or class of dispute.” Bach v. Miller, 144 Idaho 142, 145, 158 P.3d 305, 308
(2007). The source of this power comes from Article V, Section 20, of the Idaho
Constitution, which provides that district courts “shall have original jurisdiction in
all cases, both at law and in equity, and such appellate jurisdiction as may be
conferred by law.” This issue is so fundamental to the propriety of a court's
actions, that subject matter jurisdiction can never be waived or consented to, and a
court has a sua sponte duty to ensure that it has subject matter jurisdiction over a
case. See Idaho R. Civ. P. 12(g)(4). Furthermore, judgments and orders made
without subject matter jurisdiction are void and “are subject to collateral attack,
and are not entitled to recognition in other states under the full faith and credit
clause of the United States Constitution.” Sierra Life Ins. Co. v. Granata, 99
Idaho 624, 626–27, 586 P.2d 1068, 1070–71 (1978). This Court exercises free
review over questions of jurisdiction.
150 Idaho 158, __, 244 P.3d 1244, 1248–49 (2010) (internal citations omitted).
information, indictment, or complaint alleging an offense was committed within the State of
Idaho confers subject matter jurisdiction upon the court.” State v. Rogers, 140 Idaho 223, 228,
91 P.3d 1127, 1132 (2004).
In State v. Dalling, a grand jury was convened on October 13, 1992, and that grand jury
lost its legal status as a body empowered to act as a grand jury six months later, on April 13,
1993, in accordance with I.C.R. 6.8. 128 Idaho 203, 204–05, 911 P.2d 1115, 1116–17 (1996).
Nevertheless, the grand jury continued to meet after April 13, and was not officially discharged
until May 7, 1993. Id. at 204, 911 P.2d at 1116. On May 6, 1993—approximately three weeks
after its lawful term had expired—the grand jury met and returned an indictment against Dalling.
Id. Dalling moved for the indictment to be dismissed on the basis that the grand jury had no
authority to act and, accordingly, the district court never properly had the case before it. Id. The
district court granted Dalling’s motion to dismiss, and on appeal this Court affirmed, finding that
where the grand jury returned an indictment after its term had expired, that indictment was
invalid. Id. at 205, 911 P.2d at 1117 (“Upon the expiration of its term under I.C.R. 6(j), the
grand jury no longer had the authority to meet and return indictments.”). Thus in Dalling, this
Court recognized that where a grand jury does not have a legally recognized existence, any
indictments that a grand jury returns are invalid.
The expired grand jury that entered an invalid indictment against Dalling was the same
expired grand jury that entered an invalid indictment against Lute. In fact, the indictments
against Dalling and Lute were entered on the same day. The State conceded below that the grand
jury in this case did not have authority to indict Lute. On appeal, the State devotes much of its
argument to the issue of a “defective indictment” and the effect of a guilty plea on “defects” in
grand jury proceedings. However, there was no “defective” indictment in this case; rather there
was no indictment under the law. Likewise, the group of citizens that issued the purported
indictment was not a grand jury. As such, there was no defect in the grand jury process; rather
there was no grand jury process at all.
As a valid indictment was never entered against Lute, the district court never had subject
matter jurisdiction over Lute’s case under Article I, section 8 of the Idaho Constitution. See
Rogers, 140 Idaho at 228, 91 P.3d at 1132. Therefore, we reverse the district court’s denial of
Lute’s I.C.R. 35 motion and remand with instructions to grant Lute’s motion and vacate Lute’s
conviction on the basis that the district court never properly had jurisdiction over the case.
Having reversed on this issue, we decline to consider any other arguments raised by Lute.
We reverse the district court’s denial of Lute’s I.C.R. 35 motion, and remand with
instructions to vacate Lute’s conviction on the basis that no valid indictment or information was
returned in the case and, as such, the district court never properly had jurisdiction to hear it.
Chief Justice EISMANN and Justices J. JONES, W. JONES and HORTON, CONCUR.