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Commonwealth v. Saunders

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

January 10, 2020

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
DAJUAN SAUNDERS Appellant

          Appeal from the PCRA Order Entered July 10, 2019 In the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-35-CR-0000420-2017

          BEFORE: OLSON, J., DUBOW, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          STEVENS, P.J.E.

         Appellant, Dajuan Saunders, appeals from the order entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County denying his first petition filed pursuant to the Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 9541-46, following an evidentiary hearing. After a careful review, we affirm.

         The relevant facts and procedural history are as follows: On November 20, 2010, police stopped Appellant's vehicle in Lackawanna County, and at lower court docket number 2011 CR 1456, he was charged with offenses related to driving while under the influence of alcohol ("DUI")-highest rate of alcohol, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3802(c). Appellant pled guilty to the offense, and since it was his second offense, he was sentenced to one year to five years in prison. Appellant served time in prison on this conviction from July 11, 2011, until November 26, 2012, at which time he was placed on probation. N.T., 6/25/18, at 2.

         While on probation with regard to 2011 CR 1456, Appellant was arrested, convicted, and sentenced with regard to an aggravated assault he committed in Monroe County. This triggered a probation revocation hearing with regard to 2011 CR 1456, and following the revocation of his probation at 2011 CR 1456, Appellant served time in prison from March 23, 2013, until March 22, 2016. Id. at 3. Appellant averred 11½ months of this time was credited towards his Monroe County sentence while the remaining 24½ months was credited towards his probation revocation sentence for 2011 CR 1456. Id. at 3-4.

         Meanwhile, Appellant filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the federal court with regard to his conviction at 2011 CR 1456, and on February 12, 2016, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania vacated the conviction.[1] See Saunders v. Asure, No. 13-CV-3056, 2016 WL 561947 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 12, 2016). Appellant was subsequently released from prison.

         On February 9, 2017, in the instant matter, Appellant was arrested in Lackawanna County while in possession of a plastic bag containing heroin, and he was charged with various offenses, which were docketed at lower court number 2017 CR 420. On September 29, 2017, Appellant, who was represented by counsel, entered a guilty plea to one count of possession with the intent to deliver ("PWID"), 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30), and one count of criminal use of a communication facility, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 7512(a).

         On December 8, 2017, following a hearing, Appellant was sentenced to two years to four years in prison for PWID, as well as a consecutive one year of probation for criminal use of a communication facility. The sentences were to commence on December 8, 2017, and the trial court indicated Appellant was boot camp eligible as long as he met all of the other requirements. The trial court gave Appellant 142 days of credit for time he served pretrial from February 20, 2017, to July 1, 2017, with regard to the instant offenses. Despite being provided with his post-sentence and appeal rights, Appellant filed neither a post-sentence motion nor a direct appeal.

         On February 21, 2018, Appellant filed a timely, pro se PCRA petition, and counsel was appointed to assist him. Appellant filed an amended PCRA petition alleging that with respect to the instant case (2017 CR 420) he should be given credit for time served in the unrelated DUI criminal case (2011 CR 1456) since the latter conviction was vacated by the federal court. Specifically, Appellant requested that, with regard to his conviction at 2017 CR 420, the PCRA court give him credit of 41 months for time he served with regard to the vacated sentence at 2011 CR 1456. Id. at 4-5.

         On June 25, 2018, the matter proceeded to a PCRA evidentiary hearing. At the hearing, Appellant argued that he has 41 months of time that he served on a now-vacated sentence and, therefore, the state "owes him [this] time." Id. at 5. In response, the Commonwealth argued that Appellant might have a civil remedy for the time he served with regard to 2011 CR 1456; however, the prison time was not to be "banked" for future use against subsequent crimes. Id. at 8.

         By order entered on July 10, 2019, the PCRA court denied Appellant's PCRA petition, and on July 31, 2019, this timely, counseled appeal followed. All Pa.R.A.P. 1925 requirements have been met.

         On appeal, Appellant presents the following sole issue in his "Statement of the Questions Involved" (verbatim):

I. Did the trial court commit an error of law and/or abuse its discretion in failing to apply the Defendant's credit for time served under 11 CR 1456 to ...

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