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State v. Lyon

Supreme Court of North Dakota

January 15, 2019

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Branden Lyle Lyon, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Bruce B. Haskell, Judge.

          Julie A. Lawyer, Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney, Bismarck, ND, for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

          William R. Thomason, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant; submitted on brief.

          OPINION

          Crothers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Branden Lyon appeals from an amended judgment entered after his convictions for attempted murder, terrorizing, terrorizingdomestic violence, and illegal possession of a firearm. We conclude Lyon's sentence is illegal because the district court did not act within statutorily prescribed sentencing limits. The amended judgment is reversed and the case remanded for resentencing Lyon.

         I

         [¶ 2] In October 2015 Lyon was charged with attempted murder, a class A felony, terrorizing, a class C felony, terrorizingdomestic violence, a class C felony and illegal possession of a firearm, a class C felony. The State alleged Lyon was a habitual offender due to his numerous prior felony convictions. The State filed notice requesting Lyon be sentenced, if convicted, as a dangerous special offender or habitual offender under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-09.

         [¶ 3] In October 2017 a jury found Lyon guilty of all four charges. A presentence investigation was completed, and a sentencing hearing was held. The district court sentenced Lyon to life in prison with the possibility of parole on the attempted murder charge, and to five years in prison on each of the remaining three charges. The sentences were concurrent. A criminal judgment was entered. The judgment was amended to state the court found Lyon a habitual offender under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-09.

         II

         [¶ 4] Lyon argues the district court erred in sentencing him to life in prison because no evidence supports the court's habitual offender finding and the court did not properly find he was a habitual offender. The State agrees the court failed to follow statutory requirements for sentencing Lyon as a habitual offender.

         [¶ 5] The district court has discretion in sentencing a defendant, and our review generally is limited to determining whether the court acted within the sentencing limits prescribed by statute or substantially relied upon an impermissible factor. State v. Clark, 2012 ND 135, ¶ 18, 818 N.W.2d 739. This Court reviews habitual offender proceedings and the district court's application of a sentencing enhancement under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-09 for an abuse of discretion. State v. Cain, 2011 ND 213, ¶ 16, 806 N.W.2d 597. A court abuses its discretion when it acts in an unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious manner, or when it misinterprets or misapplies the law. Id.

         [¶ 6] A sentence is illegal if it is not authorized by the judgment of conviction. See State v. Hutchinson, 2017 ND 160, ¶ 9, 897 N.W.2d 321. A sentence in excess of a statutory provision or in some other way contrary to an applicable statute is an illegal sentence. See id.

         [¶ 7] The district court sentenced Lyon to life in prison with the possibility of parole on the attempted murder charge. Attempted murder is a class A felony under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-06-01. The maximum penalty for a class A felony is 20 years imprisonment. N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-01. The court's sentence is not within the statutory limit for a class A felony.

         [¶ 8] Section 12.1-32-09(1), N.D.C.C., allows the district court to extend an offender's sentence if the court finds the ...


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