Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Culp

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District

January 10, 2017

IN RE: CHRISTOPHER CULP, Petitioner,
v.
SCOTT LAWRENCE, WARDEN, Respondent.

         On Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

          Before Writ Division: James E. Welsh, P.J., and Lisa White Hardwick and Alok Ahuja, JJ.

          Alok Ahuja, Judge

         Christopher Culp pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County to stealing property having a value of more than $500, in violation of § 570.030, [1] based on an incident which occurred on January 9, 2011. The circuit court classified Culp's offense as a class C felony and on October 19, 2011, it sentenced him to four years' imprisonment.

         Culp was released on parole on September 28, 2012, almost a year after he began serving his sentence. Culp violated the conditions of his parole by failing to report to his parole officer. He was arrested on April 10, 2016, and returned to the Department of Corrections. Based on its refusal to credit Culp for the time he spent on parole while in absconder status, the Department currently calculates Culp's sentence as ending in October 2017.

         On September 13, 2016, Culp filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of Cole County. In his Petition, Culp argued that his conviction for stealing should have been classified as a class A misdemeanor, not as a class C felony, in light of the interpretation of § 570.030 in State v. Bazell, 497 S.W.3d 263 (Mo. banc 2016). Culp argued that he had already served more than the one-year maximum authorized sentence for a class A misdemeanor conviction, and that he was accordingly entitled to immediate release.

         The circuit court denied Culp's Petition on November 7, 2016. He filed a similar Petition in this Court on November 18, 2016. We issued an Order to Show Cause on the same day, directing Respondent Scott Lawrence, the Warden of the Algoa Correctional Center, to file an answer to the Petition.

         Having received Warden Lawrence's response to the Petition, and Culp's reply suggestions, we now issue a writ of habeas corpus directing that Culp's conviction of the class C felony of stealing be vacated, and that the record of his conviction be amended to reflect conviction of the class A misdemeanor of stealing. We order that Culp be released from State custody upon issuance of our mandate.

         Discussion

         "'[A] writ of habeas corpus may be issued when a person is restrained of his or her liberty in violation of the constitution or laws of the state or federal government.'" State ex rel. Clemons v. Larkins, 475 S.W.3d 60, 76 (Mo. banc 2015) (quoting State ex rel. Woodworth v. Denney, 396 S.W.3d 330, 337 (Mo. banc 2013)). Culp's habeas petition contends that he was erroneously convicted of, and sentenced for, a class C felony, when he was guilty only of a class A misdemeanor. Culp did not challenge his conviction and sentencing in an appeal from his conviction, or in a post-conviction relief motion under Supreme Court Rule 24.035. Generally, an inmate cannot use a habeas petition to raise a claim which could have been asserted on direct appeal or in a post-conviction relief proceeding. Id. "[I]t is settled, " however, "that the imposition of a sentence beyond that permitted by the applicable statute or rule may be raised by way of a writ of habeas corpus" despite the petitioner's failure to raise the issue in earlier proceedings. State ex rel. Thornton v. Denney, 467 S.W.3d 292, 295-96 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015) (citing State ex rel. Zinna v. Steele, 301 S.W.3d 510, 517 (Mo. banc 2010); State ex rel. Koster v. Jackson, 301 S.W.3d 586, 590 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010)). Under this principle, Culp is entitled to raise his claim that his conviction and sentence were unauthorized in a habeas petition. We note that Warden Lawrence has not argued that Culp's habeas petition is procedurally barred.

         I.

         At the time of Culp's underlying offense, § 570.030 provided in relevant part as follows:

1. A person commits the crime of stealing if he or she
appropriates property or services of another with the purpose to deprive him or her thereof, either without his or her consent ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.