STATE OF NEW JERSEY v. LAMAR WHITEHEAD-MILLER

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NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE

APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY

APPELLATE DIVISION

DOCKET NO. A-4013-12T3

STATE OF NEW JERSEY,

Plaintiff-Respondent,

v.

LAMAR WHITEHEAD-MILLER,

a/k/a LAMAR M. WHITEHEAD,

Defendant-Appellant.

____________________________________

December 29, 2014

 

Submitted August 27, 2014 Decided

Before Judges Simonelli and O'Connor.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Indictment No. 06-05-0927.

Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney for appellant (Jay L. Wilensky, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, of counsel and on the brief).

John L. Molinelli, Bergen County Prosecutor, attorney for respondent (Catherine A. Foddai, Senior Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

PER CURIAM

Defendant appeals from the denial of his motion to dismiss an indictment on the ground the State failed to adhere to the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD), codified in New Jersey at N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-1 to -15. We affirm.

I

On May 30, 2006, defendant was indicted by a Bergen County Grand Jury for third-degree receiving stolen property, N.J.S.A. 2C:20-7. On June 11, 2007, defendant pled guilty to this charge pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement. Before the sentencing hearing, however, he was arrested and charged with various theft-related offenses in New York. Still incarcerated in New York, defendant failed to appear at the sentencing hearing in New Jersey, and thus, was not sentenced on the receiving stolen property charge. Defendant was convicted of the offenses with which he was charged in New York, and began serving a twenty-year sentence on July 9, 2008.

Not yet sentenced on the conviction for receiving stolen property, on June 13, 2012, defendant filed a request for final disposition in accordance with Article III of the IAD. See N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3. Because he was not sentenced within 180 days of filing his request, on December 14, 2012, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. He argued that, once he pled guilty, the IAD mandated the dismissal of the indictment with prejudice unless he was sentenced within 180 days of filing his request for final disposition.

On February 1, 2013, the trial court denied defendant's motion. On March 8, 2013, defendant was sentenced on the conviction for receiving stolen property.1 The court imposed a term of 114 days, with credit for time served.

II

Defendant's argument on appeal is the same as made before the trial court. On appeal, defendant raises the following contention

POINT I THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN FINDING THE IAD INAPPLICABLE TO MATTERS IN WHICH ONLY SENTENCING REMAINS UNRESOLVED.

We disagree with defendant's contention and hold Article III does not apply under this circumstance.

"The [IAD] is a compact entered into by 48 States, the United States, and the District of Columbia to establish procedures for resolution of one State's outstanding charges against a prisoner of another State." New York v. Hill, 528 U.S. 110, 111, 120 S. Ct. 659, 662, 145 L. Ed. 2d 560, 564 (2000); State v. Baker, 198 N.J. 189, 192 n.1 (2009). It is undisputed that New Jersey and New York are parties to the IAD. The purpose of the IAD is "to encourage the expeditious and orderly disposition of [charges outstanding against a prisoner incarcerated in another jurisdiction] and [to determine] the proper status of any and all detainers based on untried indictments, informations or complaints." N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-1. "Article III of the [IAD] gives a prisoner incarcerated in one State the right to demand the speedy disposition of 'any untried indictment, information or complaint' that is the basis of a detainer lodged against him by another State." Carchman v. Nash, 473 U.S. 716, 718-19, 105 S. Ct. 3401, 3402-03, 87 L. Ed. 2d 516, 519-20 (1985). Article III states in pertinent part

(a) Whenever a person has entered upon a term of imprisonment in a penal or correctional institution of a party State, and whenever during the continuance of the term of imprisonment there is pending in any other party State any untried indictment, information or complaint on the basis of which a detainer has been lodged[2] against the prisoner, he shall be brought to trialwithin 180 days after he shall have caused to be delivered to the prosecuting officer and the appropriate court of the prosecuting officer's jurisdiction written notice of the place of his imprisonment and his request for a final disposition to be made of the indictment, information or complaint[.]

[N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-3(a) (emphasis added).]

Article V of the IAD provides that the failure to abide by the time limit set forth in Article III requires the dismissal of the indictment. N.J.S.A. 2A:159A-5(c).

As the IAD is a congressionally-sanctioned interstate compact, the interpretation of the IAD is a question of federal law, see State v. Pero, 370 N.J. Super. 203, 214 (App. Div. 2004) (quoting Cuyler, supra, 449 U.S. at 442, 101 S. Ct. at 709, 66 L. Ed. 2d at 650), and a federal court's interpretation of the IAD is binding upon state courts. Ibid. We find this case is controlled by Carchman, supra, 473 U.S. 716, 105 S. Ct. 3401, 87 L. Ed. 2d 516 and is dispositive of the issue before us.

In Carchman, a case in which the Court held that the IAD does not apply to probation revocation proceedings, the Court examined the legislative history of the IAD and determined the plain language of the IAD must be used to interpret its content. Utilizing this approach, the Court analyzed the text of Article III and found that an "untried indictment, information or complaint" are documents that charge an offense, and that the term "untried" pertains to matters that are capable of being brought to "full trial." Id. at 724; 105 S. Ct. at 3405, 87 L. Ed. 2d at 523. The Court stated

Article III by its terms applies to detainers based on "any untried indictment, information or complaint." The most natural interpretation of the words "indictment," "information," and "complaint" is that they refer to documents charging an individual with having committed a criminal offense. This interpretation is reinforced by the adjective "untried," which would seem to refer to matters that can be brought to full trial, and by Art. III's requirement that a prisoner who requests final disposition of the indictment, information, or complaint "shall be brought to trial within 180 days."

. . . .

The language of the [IAD] therefore makes clear that the phrase "untried indictment, information or complaint" in Art. III refers to criminal charges pending against a prisoner.

. . . .

[T]he congressional legislative history indicates that Congress, which adopted the [IAD] in 1970, considered the [IAD] to apply only to detainers based on untried criminal charges.

[Id. at 724-25, 728-29, 105 S. Ct. at 3405-08, 87 L. Ed. 2d at 523, 526 (internal citations omitted).]

Thus, Article III applies to charges and then only to those that can be still be brought to trial. Article III cannot be invoked by a prisoner who, convicted of an offense, seeks to compel a sentencing or some other post-conviction relief.

The Carchman Court further observed that the IAD was adopted to deter the practice of filing detainers that are based on untried criminal charges that have no or little merit. Id. at 729-30, 105 S. Ct. at 3408-09, 87 L. Ed. 2d at 526-27. "'Since the legal basis for a detainer is rarely examined, a prisoner can suffer loss of privileges and parole because of a charge for which there is not sufficient proof to obtain an indictment. Undoubtedly, detainers are sometimes used by prosecutors to exact punishment without having to try a charge which they feel would not result in a conviction.'" Id. at 729, n.6, 105 S. Ct. at 3408, n.6, 87 L. Ed. 2d at 526, n.6 (quoting Detainers and the Correctional Process, 1 966 Wash. U. L.Q. 417, 423 (1966) (footnote omitted)).

The IAD addresses the harm caused by detainers based upon charges of questionable validity, by enabling "a prisoner to require the State lodging the detainer either to drop the charge and resulting detainer or to bring the prisoner to trial. In this way, the prisoner can clear his record of detainers based on unsubstantiated charges." Id. at 730, 105 S. Ct. at 3408-09, 87 L. Ed. 2d at 527. But the abuses that led to the adoption of the IAD are not present when there is a detainer in a matter in which the prisoner has been found or has pled guilty, because the conviction itself is proof of the detainer s legitimacy. See id. at 731, 105 S. Ct. at 3409, 87 L. Ed. 2d at 527.

Here, under its plain language, defendant did not fall within the protections of Article III. When defendant sought to invoke this Article, he had pled guilty in New Jersey to the one offense with which he had been charged in the indictment and was merely awaiting sentencing. "[A] plea of guilty 'is itself a conviction; nothing remains but to give judgment and determine punishment.'" State ex rel. T.M., 166 N.J. 319, 330 (2001) (quoting Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242, 89 S. Ct. 1709, 1711-12, 23 L. Ed. 2d 274, 279 (1969)). There no longer existed any charge or, for that matter, any "untried indictment." Article III does not pertain to matters that have been tried, and by clear implication it does not apply to those charges to which a defendant has pled guilty, as trials are not held on charges disposed of by the entry of a guilty plea.

Other courts have similarly recognized that Article III of the IAD does not apply following disposition by plea. See United States v. Coffman, 905 F.2d 330, 332 (10th Cir. 1990); United States v. Currier, 836 F.2d 11, 16 (1st Cir. 1987); United States v. Wilson, 719 F.2d 1491, 1494-95 (10th Cir. 1983); Murray v. District of Columbia, 826 F. Supp. 4, 8 (D.D.C. 1993).

In support of his position, defendant cites Tinghitella v. California, 718 F.2d 308 (9th Cir. 1983), a case in which the court held that Article III applied to sentencing proceedings. That court reasoned that the term "trial" in the speedy trial clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, see U.S. Const. amend VI, had been interpreted to include "sentencing," and that the policy foundations of the IAD supported a broad construction of the term "trial." Id. at 311.

Tinghitella, however, was decided before Carchman, which relied on the plain language of the IAD and found that the reach of Article III did not extend to post-conviction proceedings. Defendant cites no authority that holds that a prisoner is protected under the IAD if he is convicted but not sentenced within the time permitted under Article III. Further, the goals of the IAD are not advanced if the protections afforded under Article III are extended to sentencing hearings.

Given the pronouncement in Carchman, we are not only compelled but persuaded by its reasoning to affirm.

Affirmed.


1 As defendant was still serving his sentence in New York, he appeared at the sentencing hearing telephonically.

2 "A detainer is a request filed by a criminal justice agency with the institution in which a prisoner is incarcerated, asking the institution either to hold the prisoner for the agency or to notify the agency when release of the prisoner is imminent." Carchman, supra, 473 U.S. at 719, 105 S. Ct. at 3403, 87 L. Ed. 2d at 520 (citing Cuyler v. Adams, 449 U.S. 433, 436 n.3, 101 S. Ct. 703, 706 n.3, 66 L. Ed. 2d 641, 646 n.3 (1981)). There is no specific reference in the record before us to the detainer that was filed with the prison in New York in which defendant was incarcerated at the time he filed his request for final disposition. We assume one was lodged.