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Mills v. Dep't of Corrections offender Information Services

Supreme Court of Kentucky

August 21, 2014

TERRY D. MILLS, APPELLANT
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS OFFENDER INFORMATION SERVICES, APPELLEE

Released for Publication September 11, 2014.

ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS. CASE NO. 2010-CA-001637-MR. LYON CIRCUIT COURT NO. 10-CI-00013.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Jason Apollo Hart, Assistant Public Advocate.

COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Allison Rene Brown, Department of Corrections, Office of Legal Services.

OPINION OF THE COURT BY CHIEF JUSTICE MINTON. All sitting. All concur.

OPINION

Page 329

MINTON, CHIEF JUSTICE.

Terry Mills pleaded guilty to several offenses, mostly drug-related, the most serious of which were manufacturing methamphetamine while in possession of a firearm and being a first-degree persistent felony offender. In total, Mills received a maximum sentence of 20 years' imprisonment.

Based on his convictions, the Department of Corrections classified Mills as a violent offender. This meant that Mills must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence--17 years--before he could be considered eligible for parole. Without the violent offender classification, Mills would have reached parole eligibility after serving 10 years of his sentence.

Mills contested this violent-offender classification and sued the Department in circuit court to block its application to him, arguing that his convictions were all non-violent drug offenses. The circuit court dismissed Mills's suit.'

The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's dismissal. In doing so, the court noted that the firearm-enhancement provision of the Controlled Substances Act, Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 218A.992, was clear and served to elevate Mills's conviction for manufacturing methamphetamine from a Class B to a Class A felony. And a Class A felony conviction, the Court of Appeals observed, qualified Mills for classification as a violent offender under KRS 439.3401 and subjected him to the 85 percent parole eligibility requirement.

We accepted discretionary review to examine the application of the firearm-enhancement provision of the Controlled Substances Act, KRS 218A.992, and address whether the statute enhances the underlying conviction or only enhances the sentence to be imposed on the under lying conviction. We agree with the Court of Appeals and hold the underlying conviction is enhanced. Essentially, as a result of KRS 218A.992's enhancement provision, a defendant is charged with an enhanced crime.

I. ANALYSIS.

By Mills's estimation, the Department engaged in the following fallacious syllogism: (1) A defendant convicted of a Class A felony is a violent offender under KRS 439.3401; (2) Mills pleaded guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine while in possession of a firearm, a Class B felony; (3) KRS 218A.992 allows for a drug crime to be enhanced one felony class when the defendant possesses a firearm in furtherance of the crime; therefore, (4) Mills stands convicted of a Class A felony, making him a violent offender.[1]

Page 330

The thrust of Mills's attack on the Department's logic is that there was actually no Class-A-felony conviction for KRS 439.3401 to apply to, and the General Assembly did not intend for any nonviolent drug offense--such as Mills's ...


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