DLRA Provision Terminating Sentences After Three Years of Unrevoked Parole Did Not Apply to Non-Drug Related Offense by “Merger”
The Second Department, in a full-fledged opinion by Justice Rivera, determined that the provision of the Drug Law Reform Act (DLRA) [Executive Law former 259-j (3-a)] which allowed the termination of sentences for enumerated drug crimes after three years of unrevoked parole did not apply (under a merger theory) to a non-drug conspiracy offense where the maximum sentence for the conspiracy had not expired at the time the three-year-unrevoked-parole mark for the drug offenses had been reached:
The application of Executive Law former § 259-j(3-a) to this petitioner did not squarely fit within the express purpose of the 2004 DLRA. The 2004 DLRA was intended to grant specific relief to a clearly identified and circumscribed class, namely, “low level non-violent drug offenders” … . A “manager of a drug ring” cannot be deemed to be the low level offender contemplated by the statute. Further, it is unreasonable to perceive someone convicted of conspiracy to murder as “nonviolent.”
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the petitioner seeks more than the benefit heretofore conferred upon him by the 2004 DLRA and Executive Law former § 259-j(3-a). He seeks, in effect, to bootstrap the sentence imposed on the conspiracy conviction to the sentences imposed on the drug-related convictions in an attempt to discharge the remaining term thereof. However, this attempt must fail for the following reasons.
First, Executive Law former § 259-j(3-a) applies only to the specific drug-related felony offenses set forth in articles 220 and 221 of the Penal Law (see Correction Law § 205). That statute cannot be reasonably construed to terminate the petitioner’s sentence on the conspiracy conviction, a non-drug-related conviction. The outcome sought by the petitioner is contrary to established precedent. Courts applying the DLRA are “not given the discretion to fashion new sentences or add terms of imprisonment, but are constrained to make an existing sentence determinate in the manner dictated by the DLRA” … .
Second, we disagree with the petitioner’s reading of Penal Law § 70.30(1) … . * * * The express language of Penal Law § 70.30(1) states that the maximum terms shall “be satisfied by discharge of the term which has the longest unexpired time to run.” … [A]t the time that [petitioner] became eligible for relief under Executive Law former § 259-j(3-a), none of the terms had expired or been discharged. The application of Executive Law former § 259-j(3-a) operated to effectively shorten the maximum term of his drug-related sentences (i.e., life) to the approximately 16 years that the petitioner served. Thus, upon the application of the early-termination provision under Executive Law former § 259-j(3-a), the maximum term of his sentence on the conspiracy conviction, which was 25 years, had the longest unexpired time to run (see Penal Law § 70.30[a]). People ex rel. Baez v Superintendent, Queensboro Corr. Facility, 2015 NY Slip Op 01827, 2nd Dept 3-4-15