from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No.
CR2013-004934-001 The Honorable Jerry Bernstein, Judge Pro
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Alice Jones
Counsel for Appellee
Maricopa County Public Defender's Office, Phoenix By
Terry Reid Counsel for Appellant
Maurice Portley delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Margaret H. Downie and Judge Patricia K.
In this opinion, we address whether the superior court
committed fundamental error by sentencing Elias Dewayne
Johnson as a category three repetitive offender based on his
six Colorado felony convictions. Because Johnson has shown no
error, we affirm.
Johnson removed a "bait bike" from a city-owned
pickup truck on April 23, 2014 and was convicted by a jury
for burglary in the third degree, a class four felony. At
sentencing, the State proved Johnson had six prior felony
convictions from Colorado, and the superior court sentenced
Johnson to an eight-year prison term as a category three
Johnson argues his Colorado convictions did not "fall
within the statutory definition of a historical prior felony
conviction" under Arizona law because they occurred more
than five years before he committed this burglary. As a
result, he contends he is entitled to be resentenced because
the superior court fundamentally erred in sentencing him as a
category three repetitive offender under Arizona Revised
Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 13-703
We review issues of statutory interpretation de novo.
State v. Peek, 219 Ariz. 182, 183, ¶
6, 195 P.3d 641, 642 (2008) (citation omitted). When
interpreting a statute, our goal is to give effect to the
legislature's intent. Id. at 184, ¶ 11, 195
P.3d at 643 (citations omitted). We look first to the
language of the statute because it is the best indication of
the legislature's intent. Id. (citations
omitted). If "the language is clear and unequivocal, it
is determinative of the statute's construction."
State v. Hansen, 215 Ariz. 287, 289, ¶ 7, 160
P.3d 166, 168 (2007) (quoting Deer Valley Unified Sch.
Dist. No. 97 v. Houser, 214 Ariz. 293, 296, ¶ 8,
152 P.3d 490, 493 (2007)); see also Indus. Comm'n v.
Old Republic Ins. Co., 223 Ariz. 75, 77-78,
¶¶ 7-8, 219 P.3d 285, 287-88 (App. 2009)
(noting we first look to the statute's plain language as
the best indicator of legislative intent, and when statutory
language is clear and unambiguous, we give effect to it and
do not use other methods of statutory interpretation)
(citations omitted). In construing sentencing statutes, we
"accord substantial deference to the legislature and its
policy judgments." State v. Berger, 212 Ariz.
473, 476, ¶ 13, 134 P.3d 378, 381 (2006).
The sentencing statute provides that "a person shall be
sentenced as a category three repetitive offender if the
person . . . stands convicted of a felony and has two or more
historical prior felony convictions." A.R.S. §
13-703(C) (West 2015). The issue then is whether Johnson's
Colorado felony convictions are historical prior felony
convictions under this Arizona statutory provision. He argues
that his Colorado convictions, from 1989 to 2002, are outside
the statutory five-year time limit in § 13-105(22)(e),
and, as a result, cannot be considered historical prior
In 2012, our legislature modified § 13-703, entitled
"Repetitive offenders; sentencing" by amending
subsection (M), in relevant part, as follows:
M. For the purposes of . . . subsection C of this section
[category three repetitive offender], a person who has been
convicted in any court outside the jurisdiction of this state
of an offense that if committed in this
state would be WAS punishable BY THAT JURISDICTION as
a felony is subject to this section. A person who has been
convicted as an adult of an offense punishable as a felony
under the provisions of any prior ...