HEFFERNAN, CHIEF JUSTICE.
This is a review of published court of appeals decision, 161 Wis.2d 104, 467 N.W.2d 201 (Ct. App. 1991), which reversed a February 12, 1990 order of the circuit court for Racine county, Dennis J. Barry, Circuit Judge, releasing Sonya Moore (Moore) from the custody of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute (Winnebago) pursuant to sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats.,
In August, 1989, Moore was charged with battery, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of nine months, and disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 90 days. At her arraignment, Moore's counsel questioned Moore's competency to stand trial, and Moore was committed to Winnebago for a competency evaluation pursuant to sec. 971.14(2), Stats. On September 5, 1989, the circuit court reviewed the evaluation and held that Moore lacked competency to proceed but was likely to become competent with proper treatment. The circuit court ordered Moore committed to the custody of the Department of Health and Social Services under sec. 971.14(5)(a).
On February 9, 1990, Moore requested the circuit court to release her from commitment because she had been confined for six months and 23 days, the maximum period of confinement for a person sentenced to the maximum nine month sentence for battery, taking into account good time credit. Moore argued that she was entitled to good time credit under sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats. The circuit court agreed, concluding that because days spent in confinement under sec. 971.14(5)(a), are
The court of appeals reversed the circuit court's order. The court of appeals concluded that sec. 973.155, Stats., applies only to "convicted offenders," that the length of confinement when a person is committed is controlled solely by the first sentence of sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats., and that the term "maximum sentence" refers to the maximum sentence allowable for an offense without respect to good time credit.
The controlling question on this review is whether a person committed pursuant to sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats., as incompetent to stand trial is eligible for good time credit. This requires us to construe sec. 971.14(5)(a). The interpretation and construction of a statute presents a question of law to be reviewed without deference
Section 971.14(5) (a), Stats., provides:
Ambiguity exists where a statute is capable of being understood by reasonably well-informed persons in two or more different senses. State v. Derenne, 102 Wis.2d 38, 45, 306 N.W.2d 12 (1981). Moore argues that ambiguity is evidenced by the fact that the trial court and the court of appeals interpreted sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats., differently. The state argues that the phrase "maximum sentence" plainly and unambiguously refers to the maximum sentence allowed by statute for a given offense. Misdemeanor battery, the most serious offense with
We conclude that reasonably well-informed persons could interpret sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats., in two different senses.
Individuals convicted of a battery and sentenced to the maximum nine month sentence will be released from jail in six months and 23 days pursuant to sec. 53.43, Stats., unless they violate certain jail rules and regulations.
Nevertheless the possibility exists that a convicted person could spend more than the six months and 23 days in jail. However, the state admits in its brief that "it is undeniably true that most defendants convicted of
It is absurd that a person not competent to stand trial on a battery charge, and who is "still clothed with a presumption of innocence," McGinnis v. Royster, 410 U.S. 263, 273 (1973), can be confined longer than a person convicted of the same offense, or committed longer than a person found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of the same offense. We conclude that the legislature did not intend this result.
A review of the legislative history of sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats., suggests that the inclusion or exclusion of good time for committed persons was neither considered nor addressed by the legislature. Rather, the history of the statute reflects a continuing good faith effort by the legislature to respond to decisions of both this court and the United States Supreme Court regarding the constitutional limitations upon the state's ability to commit an individual found to be incompetent to stand trial.
The earliest statutory provisions regarding commitment of persons incompetent to stand trial provided for indefinite commitment. Chapter 191, sec. 4700, Stats. In 1969, the legislature revised the criminal laws of Wisconsin, and abandoned the indefinite commitment of persons incompetent to stand trial. Section 971.14(5)(a), Stats., 1969 provided in part:
In Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715 (1972), the United States Supreme Court considered the constitutional limits of a state's ability to commit a person found incompetent to stand trial:
Id. at 738. Subsequent decisions of this court interpreted that "reasonable period of time" to be six months, State ex rel. Matalik v. Schubert, 57 Wis.2d 315, 328, 204 N.W.2d 13 (1973), and eighteen months, State ex rel. Haskins v. Dodge County Court, 62 Wis.2d 250, 262, 214 N.W.2d 575 (1974). In 1975, the legislature amended sec. 971.14(5), Stats., in response to these decisions. Chapter 153, Laws of 1975. The legislature removed the reference to the "maximum period for which the defendant could have been imprisoned" and simply limited the maximum period of commitment to 24 months.
In State ex rel. Deisinger v. Treffert, 85 Wis.2d 257, 270 N.W.2d 402 (1978), this court held that sec. 971.14(5), Stats., as amended in 1975, violated the due process guarantees accorded civil committees. We stated that the legislature had misconstrued Haskins, and stressed the language of Haskins that "`the maximum
Shortly after Deisinger was decided, the legislature amended sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats., to its current form. Chapter 367, Laws of 1981. The state asserts that the adoption of the phrase "maximum sentence" from Deisinger evidences the legislature's intent that persons committed as incompetent to stand trial are not entitled to good time credit. We disagree. Nothing in Matalik, Haskins or Deisinger can be read to imply that a person committed as incompetent to stand trial should be confined longer than he or she would be confined if convicted of or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of an offense. Rather, as expressly stated in Haskins, confinement under sec. 971.14(5)(a), should comport as nearly as possible with the maximum terms of confinement for the offense charged, which includes good time credit.
In light of the non-punitive nature of commitment under sec. 971.14(5)(a), Stats., and the fact that good time credit applies to persons found guilty or not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of an offense, it would be incongruous to deny good time credit to persons found incompetent to stand trial. The legislative history of sec. 971.14(5)(a), does not indicate that the
By the Court.—The decision of the court of appeals is reversed.
This section was repealed and recreated by sec. 2850, 1989 Wis. Act 31, effective January 1, 1990. The only substantive change was to reduce the maximum time of confinement from 18 months to 12 months. Because Moore's competency proceedings began on August 7, 1989, all statutory references in this opinion are to the 1987-88 statutes.
Section 53.11, Stats., 1987-88 (renumbered as sec. 302.11, Stats.) establishes a "mandatory release date" for prison inmates at twothirds of the sentence, with similar provisions by which violations of prison rules and regulations subject an inmate to extension of the mandatory release date.
The state asserts that this subsection provides good time only to persons charged with felonies, because it does not refer to sec. 53.43, the good time provision for persons serving jail sentences. However, it does refer to sec. 973.155, Stats., and as discussed above, sec. 973.155(4), Stats., specifically provides for earned good time for persons serving jail sentences. Moreover, we reject as absurd a construction of this subsection which would apply good time to persons committed as not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of a felony and deny good time credit to persons committed as not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect of a misdemeanor.