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Commonwealth v. Wright

Supreme Court of Kentucky

December 19, 2013

COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellant
Lee Andrew WRIGHT, Appellee.

Page 607

Jack Conway, Attorney General of Kentucky, Dorislee J. Gilbert, Special Assistant Attorney General, Counsel for Appellant.

Daniel T. Goyette, Louisville Metro Public Defender of Counsel, Cicely Jaracz Lambert, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the Louisville Metro Public Defender, Counsel for Appellee.


VENTERS, Justice.

Appellant Commonwealth of Kentucky sought discretionary review of a decision of the Court of Appeals determining that our statutory provisions governing probation do not extend a term of probation, so as to allow for the revocation of Appellee Lee Andrew Wright's probation after the expiration of the five-year period fixed by the trial court at sentencing. The Commonwealth contends that, when read together, KRS 533.020(4) and other relevant statutory provisions operate to automatically extend any probationary period previously fixed by the trial court when the probationer has failed to satisfy a condition of probation requiring payment of restitution to the victims of his crime until the restitution obligation is paid in full.

We granted discretionary review to examine the provisions of KRS 533.020(4) that allow for the extension of a probationary period beyond five years for restitution-related reasons, and to consider the circumstances under which such provisions are applicable. For reasons set forth herein, we affirm the opinion of the Court of Appeals.

Page 608


In September 2005, Appellee Wright entered guilty pleas in the Jefferson Circuit Court to three charges of theft by unlawful taking over $300. Final sentencing was held on November 10, 2005, and the final Judgment of Conviction and Sentence was signed by the trial judge on that date. The final judgment contains two provisions essential to our review. First, the judgment provided, " That Defendant shall be placed on supervised probation for five (5) years." (emphasis in original). Second, the final judgment included as a condition of probation, " The Defendant [Wright] shall pay restitution in the amount of $4,500 at the rate of $160 per month, commencing on December 15, 2005, and the 1st of each month until paid in full." [1] Simple arithmetic reveals that if Wright complied with the probation order, the restitution would be fully paid in thirty months, which would be May 2008.

On October 4, 2010, four years and eleven months after Wright was placed on supervised probation, his probation officer issued a report to the trial court indicating that Wright had failed to pay restitution as required, and that more than $3,000 remained unpaid. Based upon this report, on November 16, 2010, ostensibly six days after the expiration of Wright's probationary period, the Commonwealth filed a motion to revoke Wright's probation based upon his failure to pay restitution. No arrest warrant was issued against Wright but the Commonwealth's motion was set to be heard by the trial court on January 20, 2011. At the January 20 hearing, Wright argued pursuant to Conrad v. Evridge, 315 S.W.3d 313 (Ky.2010) that the circuit court was without jurisdiction to revoke his probation. The Commonwealth argued that Conrad is distinguishable and that KRS 533.020(4) operated to automatically extended Wright's probationary period so long as he failed to complete payment of the restitution as ordered.

The circuit court agreed with Wright and declined to grant the Commonwealth's motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's ruling. For the reasons stated below we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals based substantially upon its reasoning. We further conclude that KRS 533.020(4) authorizes a trial court to extend the duration of a sentence of probation only if such an extension is " necessary" for payment of restitution, that such an extension must be supported by a finding of necessity by the trial court, and that the extension must be reflected in a duly entered order of the trial court rendered prior to the expiration of any previously fixed term of probation.


Our task in this case involves the construction of various statutes contained in KRS Chapters 332 and 333, and so our review is de novo. Richardson v. Louisville/ Jefferson County Metro Gov't, 260 S.W.3d 777, 779 (Ky.2008). In so doing, we recognize the following principles of statutory construction. Where no specific definition is provided for terms contained in a statute, it is fundamental that " words of a statute shall be construed according to their common and approved usage.... In addition, the courts have a duty to accord statutory language its literal meaning unless to do so would lead to an absurd or wholly unreasonable result." Johnson v. Branch Banking and Trust Co., 313 S.W.3d 557, 559 (Ky.2010) (citations omitted); Hall v. Hospitality Resources, Inc., 276 S.W.3d 775, 784 (Ky.2008) (" A fundamental

Page 609

canon of statutory construction is that, unless otherwise defined, words will be interpreted as taking their ordinary, contemporary, common meaning." ). Our ultimate goal when reviewing and applying statutes is to give effect to the intent of the General Assembly. We derive that intent from the language the General Assembly chose, either as defined by the General Assembly or as generally understood in the context of the matter under consideration. Osborne v. Commonwealth, 185 S.W.3d 645, 648-49 (Ky.2006). We presume that the General Assembly intended for the statute to be construed as a whole, for all of its parts to have meaning, and for it to harmonize with related statutes. Hall v. Hospitality Resources, Inc., 276 S.W.3d 775, 784 (Ky.2008). We also presume that the ...

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