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State v. Wilson

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

November 15, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
MONROE WILSON

         ON APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 15-5287, DIVISION "I" HONORABLE NANCY A. MILLER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA Paul D. Connick, Jr. Terry M. Boudreaux Anne M. Wallis Seth W. Shute.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, MONROE WILSON Katherine M. Mattes.

          Panel composed of Judges Robert M. Murphy, Stephen J. Windhorst, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          STEPHEN J. WINDHORST JUDGE.

         On July 18, 2016, defendant, Monroe Wilson, pled guilty to one count of possession of twenty-eight grams or more, but less than two hundred grams of cocaine. Defendant was sentenced to five years imprisonment at hard labor and ordered to pay a $50, 000.00 fine. For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's conviction and sentence.

         Procedural History

         On October 5, 2015, the Jefferson Parish District Attorney filed a bill of information charging defendant, Monroe Wilson, with possession of a firearm while in possession of cocaine in violation of La. R.S. 14:95(E) (count one).[1] Defendant was arraigned on October 20, 2015, and pled not guilty.

         On July 18, 2016, the State amended count one of the bill of information to possession of cocaine, "28g - 200g, a felony" in violation of La. R.S. 40:967 F. On the same date, defendant withdrew his not guilty plea and pled guilty to possession of twenty-eight grams or more, but less than two hundred grams of cocaine.[2]Thereafter, the trial court sentenced defendant to imprisonment at hard labor for five years and ordered defendant to pay a $50, 000.00 fine.[3] The trial court ordered his sentence to run concurrently with case number 15-5568.

         On August 17, 2016, defendant filed a motion to reconsider the mandatory fine. After a hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion. This appeal followed.[4]

         Facts

         Because defendant pled guilty, the underlying facts were not fully developed at a trial. Nevertheless, the State alleged in the amended bill of information that defendant violated La. R.S. 40:967 F in that he possessed cocaine, "28g - 200 g." During the guilty plea colloquy, the trial court asked defendant what occurred on August 26, 2015 that caused him to plead guilty, and defendant responded that he was in possession of cocaine.[5] Defendant further stated that the cocaine was in the amount of twenty-eight grams or more, but less than two hundred grams. Additionally, the trial court stated to defendant, "You understand that by pleading guilty you are telling the Court that you have in fact committed the crime to which you are pleading guilty; is that correct?" Defendant replied, "Yes, ma'am."

         Discussion

         In his sole assignment of error, defendant contends that the mandatory $50, 000 fine was constitutionally excessive as applied to him. He contends that the fine is unconstitutional under the tests for excessiveness set forth by the United States Supreme Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court because it is (1) disproportionate to the gravity of the offense; (2) significantly harsher than fines imposed on other indigent people convicted of the same crime in the same jurisdiction, (3) significantly harsher than fines imposed on people convicted of the same crime in neighboring jurisdictions, (4) does not fit the nature of this offense and this offender, and (5) fails to advance any legislative purpose of punishment. He asserts that not only does this fine fail to contribute to legitimate goals of punishment, it actively works against the key goal of rehabilitation by ...


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