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State v. Rivera

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

August 11, 2014

MARIA V. RIVERA, Defendant.

Submitted: July 11, 2014

Andrew J. Vella, Deputy Attorney General Ms. Maria V. Rivera, pro se


Paul R. Wallace, Judge

This 11th day of August, 2014, upon consideration of the Defendant's Motion for Sentence Reduction, and the record in this matter, it appears to the Court that:

(1) In February 2013, Maria V. Rivera pleaded guilty to Aggravated Possession of Heroin (as a class B felony) and Conspiracy Second Degree at a fast-track violation of probation ("VOP") calendar.[1] She was immediately sentenced to serve, inter alia, 15 years at Level V suspended after serving 5 years followed by diminishing levels of supervision. The sentence has an effective date of November 2, 2012, and the first two years of the sentence is a minimum term of incarceration that must be imposed and cannot be suspended or reduced.[2]

(2) Rivera filed the present motion under Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b) requesting reduction of her Level V term.[3] Rivera claims that her term of imprisonment should be reduced because: (1) she has been "successfully rehabilitated"; (2) she has been approved to work in her current facility's Building Worker Program; and (3) her case may have been effected by the "Medical Examiner Lab Investigation."[4] The Court may consider such a motion "without presentation, hearing or argument."[5] The Court will decide this motion on the papers filed.

(3) The intent of Superior Court Criminal Rule 35(b) has historically been to provide a reasonable period for the Court to consider alteration of its sentencing judgments.[6] Where a motion for reduction of sentence is filed within 90 days of sentencing, the Court has broad discretion to decide if it should alter its judgment. The reason for such a rule is to give a sentencing judge a second chance to consider whether the initial sentence is appropriate.[7]

(4) Thereafter, an inmate seeking to reduce a sentence of imprisonment on her own motion must demonstrate "extraordinary circumstances" for the granting of relief under the rule.[8] Because Criminal Rule 35(b) provides that the Court may reduce a sentence upon application outside of 90 days of the imposition of the sentence only in extraordinary circumstances[9] or pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4217.[10]

(5) Rivera's allegation that her case may be affected by a current investigation of evidence tampering at the former Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, [11] i.e., that the integrity of her conviction might now be questioned, is not cognizable under Rule 35. A motion to reduce a sentence under Rule 35 presupposes a valid conviction.[12] So if relief for such a claim is even available to Rivera any longer, it would only be so via postconviction proceedings which provide a procedure for a criminal defendant to seek to set aside a conviction.[13] And none of the remaining grounds for relief cited by Rivera in her sentence reduction motion are those which qualify as "extraordinary circumstances" under Rule 35(b).[14]

(6) In turn, the Court must deny Rivera's motion to reduce her sentence. If she is to obtain such relief on the grounds she posits here, Rivera must seek modification through the procedures of Section 4217 of Title 11.[15]

NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED that Maria V. Rivera's motion for reduction of sentence is DENIED.

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