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[U] Commonwealth v. Collier

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

February 24, 2014

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
ERIC F. COLLIER, Appellant

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence August 16, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-08-CR-0000115-2010.

BEFORE: LAZARUS, J., OTT, J., and JENKINS, J.

MEMORANDUM

LAZARUS, J.

Eric F. Collier appeals from his judgment of sentence after entering an open guilty plea to delivery of a controlled substance.[1] Collier was sentenced to 32 months' to 6 years' imprisonment, with credit for time served (147 days).[2] More specifically, the court imposed a 32-month minimum sentence, with an RRRI-minimum of 24 months. After careful review, we affirm.[3]

Criminal charges were filed against Collier, by way of a complaint, on October 15, 2009. A preliminary arraignment was held on January 4, 2010, at which time Collier posted bail. Collier waived his preliminary hearing on February 23, 2010; however, he failed to appear for his arraignment on March 12, 2010, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. Collier appeared in court on the bench warrant on September 13, 2011, at which time the warrant was vacated and bail reinstated. Arraignment, rescheduled for October 6, 2011, was waived.

On December 22, 2011, Collier entered a guilty plea to delivery of a controlled substance, an ungraded felony. On January 4, 2012, he filed a motion to withdraw his plea, which the court granted on January 31, 2012. Trial was scheduled for February 27, 2012. Collier failed to appear for his pretrial conference in March 2012; the court issued a bench warrant for Collier's arrest. The warrant was later vacated and Collier was remanded to the Bradford County Correctional Facility, without bail. Thereafter, Collier filed a Pa.R.Crim.P. 600 motion to dismiss. The following day, Collier reinstated his guilty plea and the trial court dismissed the Rule 600 motion as moot. Sentencing was scheduled for August 2012. At sentencing, Collier once again moved to withdraw his guilty plea, renewing his Rule 600 motion as one of the reasons for seeking withdrawal of his plea and also asserting that his ineligibility for State Intermediate Punishment (SIP) as another reason for withdrawal.[4]

The trial court denied Collier's motion to withdraw his plea and sentenced him on August 16, 2012 to 32 months' to 6 years' imprisonment, with a minimum of 24 months due to his RRRI eligibility.[5] Collier filed a timely post-sentence motion claiming that the sentencing court improperly increased its initial minimum sentence (from the standard range to the aggravated range of the sentencing guidelines) once Collier requested RRRI eligibility. The court denied his post-sentence motion and this timely appeal follows.

On appeal, Collier raises the following two issues: (1) Whether the sentencing court erred in increasing the minimum sentence after the defendant requested that a RRRI minimum be imposed and (2) Whether the court erred in denying defendant's request to withdraw his guilty plea.

RRRI Sentence

Collier claims that the trial court intentionally increased his minimum sentence, after determining he was RRRI eligible, in order to require him to serve a minimum RRRI sentence of two years' imprisonment. Although admitting it is not directly on point, Collier cites Commonwealth v. Robinson, 7 A.3d 868 (Pa.Super. 2010), to support his argument that it was improper for the trial court to increase his minimum sentence to account for RRRI eligibility.

We find Robinson to be inapposite. In that case, a trial court failed to consider a defendant's eligibility for RRRI after he entered a negotiated plea. On appeal, our Court found that the trial court erred "because the imposition of a negotiated sentence, like defendant's, does not conflict with the statutory scheme of the RRRI sentencing process and does not disqualify a defendant from eligibility under the RRRI statute." Id. at 875.

Instantly, the trial court did consider Collier's eligibility for RRRI[6] after he entered his open plea and, ultimately, determined that he was eligible. However, the court fashioned his minimum RRRI sentence as follows:

I'll figure the RRRI, but I want him to do the two year minimum. So, I may – you know, it's – I'll give him the RRRI, but I'm going to increase the minimum sentence ...

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