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State v. Ralios

Supreme Court of Nebraska

January 4, 2019

State of Nebraska, appellee,
Gabriel Ralios, appellant.

         1. Statutes: Appeal and Error. Statutory interpretation is a question of law that an appellate court resolves independently of the trial court.

         2. Sentences: Appeal and Error. Whether an appellate court is reviewing a sentence for its leniency or its excessiveness, a sentence imposed by a district court that is within the statutorily prescribed limits will not be disturbed on appeal unless there appears to be an abuse of the trial court's discretion.

         3. Judges: Words and Phrases. A judicial abuse of discretion exists only when the reasons or rulings of a trial judge are clearly untenable, unfairly depriving a litigant of a substantial right and denying a just result in matters submitted for disposition.

         4. Statutes: Legislature: Intent. The fundamental objective of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and carry out the Legislature's intent.

         5. Criminal Law: Statutes: Legislature: Intent. In reading a penal statute, a court must determine and give effect to the purpose and intent of the Legislature as ascertained from the entire language of the statute considered in its plain, ordinary, and popular sense.

         6. Licenses and Permits: Revocation: Proof. Proof of reinstatement of a suspended operator's license under Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60-4, 108(2) (Supp. 2017) requires that a driver with a previously suspended license show that his or her license is no longer suspended and that his or her license validly and effectively allows the holder to operate a motor vehicle.

         7. Sentences: Appeal and Error. When a trial court's sentence is within the statutory guidelines, the sentence will only be disturbed by an appellate court when an abuse of discretion is shown.

         8. Sentences. When imposing a sentence, a sentencing judge should consider the defendant's (1) age, (2) mentality, (3) education and experience, (4) social and cultural background, (5) past criminal record or [301 Neb. 1028] record of law-abiding conduct, and (6) motivation for the offense, as well as (7) the nature of the offense, and (8) the violence involved in the commission of the crime.

         9. ___. The appropriateness of a sentence is necessarily a subjective judgment and includes the sentencing judge's observation of the defendant's demeanor and attitude and all the facts and circumstances surrounding the defendant's life.

          Appeal from the District Court for Thurston County, John E. Samson, Judge, on appeal thereto from the County Court for Thurston County, Douglas L. Luebe, Judge.

          Erika Y. Buenrostro, of Castrejon & Buenrostro, L.L.C., for appellant.

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, Nathan A. Liss, Derek Bral, Senior Certified Law Student, and, on brief, Sarah E. Marfisi.

          Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.

          FREUDENBERG, J.


         Pursuant to a plea agreement with the State, Gabriel Ralios pled guilty to operating a motor vehicle during a time of suspension, a Class III misdemeanor, and speeding. On November 2, 2017, the county court accepted Ralios' pleas and, after hearing argument on sentencing, the court sentenced him to 75 days in jail pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 60-4, 108(2) (Supp. 2017). Ralios appealed his sentence to the district court sitting as an intermediate court of appeal, assigning that the county court erred in sentencing Ralios to 75 days in jail instead of a fine of $100 under § 60-4, 108(2). The district court affirmed the county court's sentence. The central issue on appeal is whether Ralios showed "proof of reinstatement of his . . . suspended operator's license" under § 60-4, 108(2).

         [301 Neb. 1029] BACKGROUND

         On July 4, 2017, a Thurston County deputy sheriff clocked Ralios' car traveling over 80 m.p.h. in a 60-m.p.h. zone. Upon stopping the vehicle, the deputy determined Ralios' license was suspended in the State of Missouri. He was charged with speeding and with operating a motor vehicle during a time of suspension.

         On November 2, 2017, Ralios entered into a plea agreement. The State agreed to stand silent at sentencing in exchange for Ralios' pleas on both counts. The court accepted Ralios' pleas and proceeded immediately to sentencing.

         During the sentencing hearing, Ralios presented a letter from the Missouri Driver License Bureau stating that Ralios was "not currently suspended or revoked in the state of Missouri" as of October 3, 2017. He argued that this letter was sufficient to establish that his license was reinstated and that therefore, the maximum punishment authorized by statute was a $100 fine under § 60-4, ...

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