Sentencing of Defendants with Intellectual Disability and/or Psychiatric Issues

State v. Dabney, No. 42650-2014, 2016 WL 768121 (Idaho Feb. 29, 2016)

Trial court did not abuse its discretion when it (1) declined to reduce the sentence of defendant convicted of sexually abusing two children based upon the mitigating developmental and psychiatric circumstances, and (2) relinquished defendant to custody of Board of Correction when a suitable community-based placement could not be found.

Background: Darrien Dabney, a developmentally disabled 18-year-old, forcibly sodomized two 6-year-old boys with whose family he had been living for less than a month. He was indicted for two counts of lewd conduct and ultimately pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement: the State would dismiss the other count and would recommend a suspended sentence of 20 years (5 fixed and the remaining indeterminate), with Dabney to be committed to a secure residential center for mentally delayed adults. When the district court determined that no suitable community placement could be found, it relinquished jurisdiction over Dabney and remanded him to the custody of the Idaho Board of Correction. Dabney filed a motion asking for reconsideration of his sentence, and, finding that Dabney had not presented any new information in support of his motion, the lower court denied reconsideration of his sentence or relinquishment of jurisdiction.

Holdings: The Supreme Court of Idaho affirmed (1) the defendant’s sentence, (2) the lower court’s order relinquishing jurisdiction, and (3) the lower court’s order denying the motion to reduce the sentence.

Notable Points:

The district court did not abuse its discretion in pronouncing its sentence or relinquishing jurisdiction over defendant: The Supreme Court of Idaho held that the trial court’s sentence was not unreasonable despite the mitigating evidence presented. Although mitigating circumstances included the defendant’s abusive upbringing, sexual abuse at age 10, and extensive psychiatric issues, the sentencing decision was not an abuse of discretion because it was based primarily on the need to protect the community. Because no suitable community placement existed, the court did not err when it eventually relinquished jurisdiction over the defendant. The trial court had retained jurisdiction for a period of time following sentencing, but once it was determined that there was no appropriate community-based facility that could allow for treatment of the defendant, it was not unreasonable for it to relinquish its jurisdiction. This holding was supported by the fact that the defendant had “ample opportunity to provide evidence regarding placements to allay [the] court’s concerns, [but] he did not do so.”

Incarcerating defendant instead of placing him on probation is constitutional: The Supreme Court also held that the district court’s decision not to place Dabney on probation clearly did not violate any of his constitutional rights. Because Dabney had already been sentenced to prison—and the only issue before the court was whether the sentence would be suspended and Dabney would be placed on probation—he had no constitutional or inherent right to be released prior to the expiration of his prison term

Found in Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 1