IN RE: William WILSON

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Court of Appeal, First District, Division 3, California.

IN RE: William WILSON, On Habeas Corpus.

Cr. 21142.

Decided: February 18, 1981

George Deukmejian, Atty. Gen., Robert H. Philibosian, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Edward P. O'Brien, Asst. Atty. Gen., Karl S. Mayer, Kenneth C. Young, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for appellant. William Everett Glass, Martinez, for respondent.

The People appeal the granting of respondent's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Respondent William Wilson was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to prison for life in 1960. Respondent was first paroled on October 22, 1975, but his parole was revoked and he was returned to prison in 1976. His return to prison did not involve a new conviction and commitment. He was in prison when the Determinate Sentencing Law (DSL) became operative on July 1, 1977. (Stats.1976, c. 1139; Stats.1977, c. 165.) He was again paroled on December 22, 1977. On November 18, 1979, he was arrested; parole revocation proceedings were scheduled for January 17, 1980. Wilson then filed a petition for habeas corpus, contending that according to Penal Code section 3000, subdivision (d), his parole period expired on October 22, 1979, four years after his initial release on parole. Thus, he could not suffer a parole violation for an incident occurring thereafter, on November 18, 1979. We agree and affirm the judgment.

Section 1170.2, subdivision (f) of the DSL provides: “In the case of any inmate who committed a felony prior to July 1, 1977, the length, conditions, revocation, and other incidents of parole shall be the same as if the prisoner had been sentenced for an offense committed on or after July 1, 1977.” Thus, although respondent's offense was committed in 1959, the parole provisions of the DSL are applicable to him. (See In re Bray (1979) 97 Cal.App.3d 506, 508, 158 Cal.Rptr. 745; see also 62 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 738), which states in part that on the operative date of the DSL, all prisoners who were on parole became subject to its parole provisions.

Section 3000 of the DSL specifies maximum permissible parole periods. As a defendant who had been sentenced to a life sentence, the parole term for respondent was three years: “In the case of any inmate sentenced under Section 1168, the period of parole shall not exceed three years in the case of an inmate imprisoned under a life sentence ...” (Former s 3000, subd. (b).)[FN1] Subdivision (b) of section 3000 mandates that upon successful completion of parole, or at the end of the maximum statutory period of parole specified for the inmate, whichever is earlier, the inmate shall be discharged from custody.

Subdivision (d) of section 3000 also explains when the period of parole commences: “The date of the maximum statutory period of parole under this subdivision and subdivisions (a) and (b) shall be computed from the date of initial parole, or July 1, 1977, whichever is later, and shall be a period chronologically determined. Time during which parole is suspended because the prisoner has absconded or has been returned to custody as a parole violator shall not be credited toward such period of parole unless the prisoner is found not guilty of the parole violation. However, ... except as provided in Section 3064, in no case may a prisoner sentenced pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1168 be retained under parole supervision or in custody for a period longer than four years from the date of his initial parole.” (Emphasis added.)[FN2]

Respondent contends, based upon the underscored language, that his parole period had expired on October 22, 1979, four years after the date of his initial parole. Appellant contends that respondent's three-year parole period should have been computed from the date of his second release, on December 12, 1977, rather than from the date of his initial release in October of 1975. The People assert that the underscored language of section 3000, subdivision (d) qualifies or limits only the immediately preceding sentence. They read the last two sentences of the subdivision to mean only that up to a maximum of one year of any time spent while absconded or in custody as a parole violator won't count toward the three-year parole period. Section 3000, subdivision (d) does so provide, but the section says more.

The fundamental rule of statutory construction is that the court is to ascertain the intent of the Legislature in order to effectuate the purpose of the law. In determining that intent, the court must first look to the words of the statute itself. (Hogya v. Superior Court (1977) 75 Cal.App.3d 122, 142 Cal.Rptr. 325.) Generally, a court should not look beyond the plain meaning of a statute when its language is clear and unambiguous. (Teachers Management & Inv. Corp. v. City of Santa Cruz (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 438, 446, 134 Cal.Rptr. 523.) The language of subdivision (d) is clear and unambiguous: “(E)xcept as provided in Section 3064, in no case may a prisoner ... be retained under parole supervision or in custody for a period longer than four years from the date of his initial parole.” (Emphasis added.) It is apparent from the clear language of the section that the only calendar time excluded from the four years is the time during which the parolee is an escapee or fugitive, as set forth in section 3064.[FN3] Otherwise, the maximum parole period for a life termer is four years from his initial parole, which includes time on parole and time in custody after the initial parole. This meaning finds support in an analysis of the bill amending section 3000 (see fn. 2) by the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice (S.B. 1057). In describing the law as it existed prior to the amendment, the analysis states that “any time spent imprisoned for a violation of parole shall not count toward the one or three year parole period. However, the maximum amount of calendar time allowed for the parole period including violations is 18 months (four years for lifers).” (Emphasis added.) This observation is consistent with our reading of the statute, that the lifer's maximum parole period is three years excluding custody time for parole violation, but in no event more than four years of “calendar time.” The analysis further comments that “an eighteen month (four years for lifers) limit of the absolute period was placed into the law to insure that a person would not be on parole the rest of his life after repeated technical violations.”

The People argue that respondent's reading of the statute renders meaningless the reference to July 1, 1977 as the date on which computation of the parole period can begin. That argument is incorrect. However, the statute clearly provides that the computation begins on the date of the initial parole or on July 1, 1977, whichever is later, except that if the computation begins on July 1, 1977, the parole period can last no longer than four years after the date of the initial parole. It is the People's reading of the statute that would render part of its language meaningless.

The People also argue that because respondent was in prison on July 1, 1977, when the DSL became operative, his parole period must be computed from the date of his release from prison after that operative date. In support of that argument, the People cite section 1170.2, subdivision (f): “In the case of any inmate who committed a felony prior to July 1, 1977, the length ... of parole shall be the same as if the prisoner had been sentenced for an offense committed on or after July 1, 1977.” However, that section supports the respondent's reading of the statute, not appellant's. Indirectly, what the People seem to be arguing is that the term “date of initial parole” as used in section 3000, subdivision (d) has more than one meaning, depending on the status of the prisoner. As the People read section 3000, subdivision (d), for those in respondent's position the term would mean the first release after July 1, 1977; for all others, including those paroled before July 1, 1977, who had not been returned to prison on that date, the term would be read literally. However, no such distinction or qualification is apparent from the plain language of the statute, and when the words of a statute are clear, the court should not add to them and accomplish an unintended or unapparent purpose. (Morrissey v. City and County of San Francisco (1977) 75 Cal.App.3d 903, 910, 142 Cal.Rptr. 527.)

Judgment is affirmed.

FOOTNOTES

1.  Section 3000 was amended in 1978 to lengthen the maximum parole terms, the period of parole in the case of an inmate imprisoned under a life sentence is now five years. (Stats. 1978, c. 582, s 1, effective Jan. 1, 1979.) The increased periods cannot be applied retroactively to persons released on parole before January 1, 1979 (In Re Harper (1979) 96 Cal.App.3d 138, 142, 157 Cal.Rptr. 759), or to those whose term and release date were fixed before enactment of the amendment, but who were not actually released on parole before the effective date of the legislation (In re Thomson (1980) 104 Cal.App.3d 950, 955, 164 Cal.Rptr. 99).

2.  As amended in 1978, section 3000, subdivision (d) now provides: “However, ... except as provided in Section 3064, in no case may a prisoner sentenced pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1168 be retained under parole supervision or in custody for a period longer than seven years from the date of his initial parole.” (Emphasis added.)

3.  Section 3064 provides that the time a prisoner is an escapee and fugitive from justice is not to be counted as part of his prison term; there is no argument that section 3064 is applicable here.

SCOTT, Acting Presiding Justice.

FEINBERG and PANELLI,[FN*] JJ., concur.