We granted certiorari to decide whether an appellate court, on an appeal by the defendant in a criminal case, may take notice of and correct an illegally lenient sentence so that the defendant is worse off for having exercised his right to appeal. We hold that an appellate court under such circumstances should disregard sentencing errors favorable to the defendant unless the prosecution has raised the issue in the trial court and has sought appellate review.
Defendant was convicted of simple burglary of a pharmacy in violation of La.R.S. 14:62.1. The trial court sentenced defendant as a second offender under La.R.S. 15:529.1 to ten years imprisonment at hard labor, without mentioning the denial of parole eligibility required by the statute.
Defendant appealed, contending among other things that the trial court erred in finding him to be a multiple offender and in imposing an excessive sentence. The court of appeal rejected all of defendant's contentions, but amended the sentence to provide that defendant was not eligible for parole, even though the prosecution had not raised the issue in the trial court and appealed or otherwise sought appellate review of the legality of the sentence. 439 So.2d 622. We granted certiorari. 443 So.2d 1123.
La.C.Cr.P. Art. 882 provides that an illegal sentence may be corrected by the trial court at any time. Additionally, an appellate court may take notice of the illegality
On defendant's appeal in State v. Napoli, 428 So.2d 957 (La.App. 1st Cir.1983), the court of appeal, on its own motion and without any request for review by the prosecution, corrected an illegal sentence so as to deny parole eligibility to the defendant for an additional thirty months more than the sentence imposed by the trial court. This court, on defendant's application, rendered the following per curiam decision, reported at 437 So.2d 868:
Unfortunately, although the import of the ruling was very clear, this court cited the wrong Goodley decision, the correct citation being 423 So.2d 648 (La.1983). In the first Goodley decision (which was incorrectly cited in Napoli), this court had recognized an illegal jury verdict as patent error on defendant's appeal and had set aside the verdict. Of course, as the court of appeal correctly noted in the present case, the first Goodley decision was not authority for the proposition that recognizing a patent error unfavorable to defendant on defendant's appeal has a chilling effect on a defendant's exercise of his right to appeal. However, the second Goodley decision clearly stands for (and was intended to be cited for) the proposition that an appellate court's review for patent errors should not work to a defendant's disadvantage on his own appeal.
In the present case, the court of appeal expressed doubt about the import of the per curiam decision in Napoli (with its incorrect citation) and about the procedure for correcting a patent error in sentencing. There is no cause for doubt.
Therefore, if a trial judge imposes a sentence without mentioning denial of parole eligibility required by a statute, it is inappropriate for an appellate court to correct the sentence when the defendant alone seeks appellate review.
Finally, the court of appeal compounded its error in the present case by correcting the sentence itself, rather than remanding the case to the trial court to do so. Correction of a sentence by an appellate court is arguably appropriate in some cases. However, since it is possible that the trial judge at the time of sentencing in the present case simply overlooked the "without benefit" provision of the statute, a reviewing court cannot determine whether the judge might have imposed a sentence of fewer than ten years if the prosecution had pointed out the restriction to him. Thus, the action of the appellate court possibly denied defendant the right to have the trial judge exercise informed sentencing discretion.
Accordingly, the portion of the judgment of the court of appeal amending the sentence is set aside, and the sentence imposed by the trial court is reinstated. The conviction and original sentence are affirmed.
DIXON, C.J., concurs.