Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
Writ Division: James E. Welsh, P.J., and Lisa White Hardwick
and Alok Ahuja, JJ.
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,  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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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