Facts: Defendant pled guilty in 2015 and received a sentence that was enhanced by the “criminal gang enhancement statute.” The following year, the enhancement was held to be unconstitutional in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016). In 2019, Defendant filed a motion under Rule 36.1 alleging the sentence was illegal, which was denied by the trial court.
Appellate Decision: The intermediate court ruled in favor of the Defendant and reversed, holding that “the application of an unconstitutional law renders a sentence void, and therefore, illegal.”
Review Granted: July 22, 2020.
Prediction: Ben thinks the Supreme Court will rule against the Defendant, and hold the Defendant waived his right to challenge the enhancement by not raising the issue before or at the time of his plea, and that the plain language of Rule 36.1 only allows challenges to sentences that were plainly contrary to statute at the time of the plea. Ben also thinks Justice Lee will dissent and write that Rule 36.1 should apply to this situation where the applicable statute was facially unconstitutional. David disagrees and thinks the Supreme Court will vote 3-2 in favor of the defendant.