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Commonwealth v. Morrison

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

October 24, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
JASON PAUL MORRISON Appellant

         Appeal from the Order Entered September 27, 2016 in the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-21-CR-0000677-2016, CP-21-CR-0000874-2016

          BEFORE: DUBOW, RANSOM, and STRASSBURGER, [*] JJ.

          OPINION

          STRASSBURGER, J.

         Jason Paul Morrison (Appellant) appeals nunc pro tunc from the judgment of sentence imposed after Appellant and the Commonwealth entered into a negotiated plea agreement. We affirm.

         We begin with the procedural history of Appellant's case.

From mid-January 2016 to early February 2016, [while he was on parole, Appellant] committed multiple acts of burglary or attempted burglary throughout Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. [Appellant] took or attempted to take a variety of items from twelve separate homes and garages. [As a result, Appellant was charged with a multitude of crimes.[1] Appellant] confessed to the crimes[, ] and on July 7, 2016, entered pleas of guilty as follows: at docket [number] 677 of 2016, [Appellant] pled guilty to one count of burglary of a structure adapted for overnight accommodation with no person present, and at docket [number] 874 of 2016, [Appellant] pled guilty to one consolidated count of burglary of a structure adapted for overnight accommodation with no person present and to one consolidated count of criminal attempt to burglary - adapted overnight accommodation no person present.

Trial Court Opinion, 4/4/2017, at 1 (unnecessary capitalization omitted).

         At Appellant's guilty plea hearing, the Commonwealth and Appellant presented the trial court with an agreement whereby Appellant would pay restitution and receive an aggregate sentence of three to ten years of incarceration. The assistant district attorney explained "that the parties had agreed to the aforementioned sentence, which was at the bottom of the standard range of the sentencing guidelines, because [Appellant] cooperated in resolving the open (and, most likely, unsolvable) burglary cases charged at [docket number] 874 after being arrested for burglaries at [docket number] 677." Id. at 2. After administering a colloquy to Appellant, [2] the trial court accepted Appellant's negotiated plea and scheduled the case for sentencing. On September 27, 2016, Appellant was sentenced at each docket number to the agreed-upon term of three to ten years of incarceration, plus fines and costs. Although the trial court ordered the terms of incarceration at each docket number to run concurrently with each other, the court ordered the sentences to run consecutively to any imprisonment for a parole violation. Appellant did not file any post-sentence motions or a direct appeal.

         On November 7, 2016, Appellant filed pro se a petition pursuant to the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 9541-9546. After appointment of counsel, counsel filed an amended petition requesting reinstatement of Appellant's right to a direct appeal nunc pro tunc, alleging that Appellant's plea counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to file a requested appeal. After an evidentiary hearing, the petition was granted and Appellant timely filed a notice of appeal to this Court. Both Appellant and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P. 1925.

         On appeal, Appellant presents two issues.

[1.] Whether the trial court abused its discretion and committed reversible error when it sentenced Appellant to an aggregate sentence of not less than three years nor more than ten years [of] imprisonment?
[2.] Whether the trial court imposed an illegal sentence when it sentenced Appellant to an aggregate sentence of not less than three years nor more than ten years [of] imprisonment?

Appellant's Brief at 5 (unnecessary capitalization and numbers omitted).

         Appellant's first issue presents a challenge to the discretionary aspects of his sentence. Because Appellant pled guilty, we must examine the effect of his guilty plea upon his discretionary aspects claim. "Generally, a plea of guilty amounts to a waiver of all defects and defenses except those concerning the jurisdiction of the court, the legality of the sentence, and the validity of the guilty plea." Commo ...


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