State of Tennessee v. Michael Eugene Tolle

State of Tennessee v. Michael Eugene Tolle
E2017-00571-SC-R11-CD

This is the third in a succession of three cases concerning Section 5 of the Public Safety Act of 2016, which took effect on January 1, 2017, and amended Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105, the statute providing for grading of theft offenses.  In 2012, before the amended version of the statute took effect, Michael Eugene Tolle, the defendant, pleaded guilty to theft of property in the amount of more than $500 but less than $1,000, a Class E felony at the time of the offense, and he was sentenced accordingly.  In 2017, following the revocation of his probation, the trial court applied the amended version of the statute, which graded theft in the amount of $1,000 or less as a Class A misdemeanor, and imposed a Class A misdemeanor sentence.  The State appealed.  The Court of Criminal Appeals, after determining that it had authority to consider the issue raised by the State, vacated the sentence and remanded for entry of a sentence reflecting his conviction for a Class E felony.  We granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal in this case in order to consider (1) whether the State had the right to appeal the trial court’s revocation order, and (2) whether the defendant, who was originally sentenced under the prior version of the statute, may benefit from the lesser punishment under the amended version of the theft grading statute following the revocation of his probation.  We conclude that, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35, the intermediate appellate court acquired jurisdiction of the State’s claim when the defendant, in effect, filed a Rule 35 motion for reduction of sentence.  In addition, while we agree with the Court of Criminal Appeals’ determination that the Criminal Savings Statute applies to the amendments to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105, we also agree with its ultimate conclusion that the trial court exceeded its authority in modifying the offense class and sentence pursuant to the amended version of the statute following the revocation of his probation.  We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and remand to the trial court for the entry of a modified judgment consistent with this opinion.

Authoring Judge: 
Justice Roger A. Page
Originating Judge: 
Judge Bobby R. McGee
Date Filed: 
Wednesday, November 27, 2019