Category Archives: Probation

State v. Hardtke: Court Limits Costs of Pretrial Monitoring

In State v. Hardtke, the WA Supreme Court decided that although a trial court has the authority under RCW 10.01.160 and CrR 3.2 to impose the cost of pretrial electronic alcohol monitoring, the amount is capped at $150.00.

Here, Mr. Hardtke was charged with two counts of Rape in the Second Degree, one count of Assault Second Degree, two counts of Assault Fourth Degree, and Malicious Mischief Third Degree. All were alleged to be acts of domestic violence that took place while Hardtke claimed he was blacked out from alcohol abuse.

At arraignment, the trial court imposed conditions that Hardtke not consume alcohol. To ensure his compliance with this condition, Hardtke was required to wear a transdermal alcohol detection (TAD) electronic alcohol monitoring bracelet while awaiting trial. Hardtke objected multiple times to paying for the cost of the bracelet, but he nevertheless wore the bracelet as a condition of his release.

Eventually, Hardtke pleaded guilty to amended charges, and as part of his sentence he was ordered to reimburse the county for the cost of the alcohol monitoring; which totalled $3,972.00. Hardtke objected and appealed the court’s ruling. The case ended up in the WA Supreme Court.

In reaching its decision, the WA Supreme Court reasoned that RCW 10.01.160 authorizes courts to impose “pretrial supervision” costs on both convicted and nonconvicted defendants; however, it expressly limits pretrial supervision costs to $150. The court further reasoned that paying the costs was unreasonable:

Hardtke himself did not arrange for the TAD monitoring and did not agree to pay a third-party company for the service. On the record before us, the sentencing court imposed a cost on Hardtke for pretrial electronic alcohol monitoring in order ensure compliance with the release condition that he not consume alcohol. We find no support for the State’s argument under CrR 3.2.

The court further reasoned that TAD monitoring falls under the plain meaning of “pretrial supervision.” This includes work release, day monitoring, or electronic monitoring. The court emphasized that TAD monitoring operates like other monitoring devices, such as GPS (global positioning system) monitoring. It ensures compliance with the pretrial release conditions by supervising Hardtke’s conduct and reporting his blood alcohol levels. This monitoring, the court said, is functionally analogous to requiring a defendant awaiting trial to physically check in with the court or county probation officer to demonstrate that pretrial release conditions have been complied with.

The court concluded that RCW 10.01.160 limits the court’s authority to impose costs for pretrial supervision to $150. “Because we hold that the TAD monitoring costs imposed on Hardtke were for pretrial supervision, and because those costs were greater than $150, the trial court exceeded its statutory authority by imposing nearly $4,000 for Hardtke’s pretrial supervision.” The Court remanded Hardtke’s case back to the trial court with instructions that costs for pretrial supervision in this matter not exceed $150.00.

My opinion? Good decision. Defendants should not pay an arm and a leg simply to be monitored by courts, ESPECIALLY if there’s statutory authority stating that pretrial supervision shall not exceed $150. Getting access to justice is difficult enough. Good, straightforward opinion.

State v. Jardinez: Parole Officer Conducts Overbroad Search of Defendant’s iPod

Good decision.

A community corrections officer’s (CCO) review of video on a parolee’s iPod Nano violated the parolee’s constitutional rights because the CCO did not have a reasonable suspicion based on articulated facts that the iPod Nano contained evidence of past, present or future criminal conduct or violations of the parolee’s conditions of release.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/313085.pub.pdf

The defendant Felipe Jardinez was an parole for Drive-By Shooting and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Second Degree. He served prison time followed by 18 months of community supervision. The conditions of community custody included requirements to report to his CCO, refrain from possessing controlled substances and refrain from possessing firearms.

On November 3,2011, Felipe lardinez missed a scheduled meeting with his CCO. The CCO called Jardinez. The two scheduled to meet the next day. During the appointment, Martinez asked Jardinez to submit to a urinalysis test. Jardinez admitted that the test would show marijuana use.

The CCO instructed Jardinez to empty his pockets. Jardinez placed an iPod Nano onto a desk. The CCO was interested in the iPod because parolees occasionally take pictures of themselves with other gang members or “doing something they shouldn’t be doing.” When the CCO handled the iPod, Jardinez appeared nervous. Nevertheless, the CCO lacked facts that the iPod video player would show evidence of a crime or violation of the conditions of the defendant’s community custody.

The CCO accessed the iPod. He found a video recorded earlier that morning. The CCO played the video. It showed  Jardinez pumping a shotgun in his bedroom. Jardinez was arrested. Police searched his home and found the shotgun seen in Jardinez’s iPod video.

Jardinez was charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm First Degree. Jardinez moved to suppress the evidence obtained through the CCO’s search of his iPod, and all evidence seized as a result of law enforcement officers searching his home as the spoiled fruit of the unlawful viewing of the video on his iPod.

The trial court granted Felipe Jardinez’s motion to suppress. The court concluded that a warrantless search of the iPod would be justified only if the CCO had a reasonable suspicion based on articulated facts that the device contained evidence of past, present or future criminal conduct or violations of the defendant’s conditions of community custody. The case went up on appeal.

At issue was whether the CCO had legal authority to search the content of Jardinez’s iPod when the CCO did not expect the search to yield evidence related to either of the known parole violations, Jardinez’s failure to appear, or his marijuana use.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that unless an exception is present, a warrantless search is impermissible under both article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A trial court may suppress evidence seized from an illegal search under the Exclusionary Rule or the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine.

The Court further reasoned that Washington law recognizes that probationers and parolees have a diminished right of privacy that permits a warrantless search based on probable cause. Parolees and probationers have diminished privacy rights because they are persons whom a court has sentenced to confinement but who are serving their time outside the prison walls. Therefore, the State may supervise and scrutinize a probationer or parolee closely.  Nevertheless, this diminished expectation of privacy is constitutionally permissible only to the extent necessitated by the legitimate demands of the operation of the parole process.

RCW 9.94A.631 provides exceptions to the warrant requirement. RCW 9.94A.631(1) reads:

If an offender violates any condition or requirement of a sentence, a community corrections officer may arrest or cause the arrest of the offender without a warrant, pending a determination by the court or by the department. If there is reasonable cause to believe that an offender has violated a condition or requirement of the sentence, a community corrections officer may require an offender to submit to a search and seizure of the offender’s person, residence, automobile, or other personal property.

Also, the Court based its decision principally upon the Sentencing Guidelines Commission’s comment about RCW 9.94A.631(1). The Commission wrote as its official comment behind the statute:

The Commission intends that Community Corrections Officers exercise their arrest powers sparingly, with due consideration for the seriousness of the violation alleged and the impact of confinement on jail population. Violations may be charged by the Community Corrections Officer upon notice of violation and summons, without arrest. The search and seizure authorized by this section should relate to the violation which the Community Corrections Officer believes to have occurred.

Based on the court’s reading of the statute and its counterpart comment, it found RCW 9.94A.631 did not authorize the CCO’s warrantless search of the contents of Jardinez’s iPod. It affirmed the trial court’s suppression of the evidence of Felipe Jardinez’s unlawful possession of a firearm.

My opinion? Good decision. I’ve posted similar blogs stating that CCO’s and probation officers exercise too much power over defendants. This certainly is one of those cases.

City of Aberdeen v. Regan: When Unfound Accusations Violate Probation

Bad decision.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/?fa=opinions.disp&filename=824762MAJ

WA Supremes held that a defendant’s probation, that was conditioned on having “no criminal violations of law or alcohol related infractions,” was properly revoked after the defendant was accused, but found not guilty, of fourth degree assault and criminal trespass.

In this case, Regan was convicted of fourth degree assault in Aberdeen Municipal Court and sentenced to 365 days in jail.  The court suspended 360 days of Regan’s sentence, issued 5 days jail,  and placed him on probation for 24 months.  The court conditioned Regan’s probation on his having “no criminal violations of law or alcohol related infractions.”

However, while on probation, Regan was charged with fourth degree assault and criminal trespass.  Regan was acquitted at a trial.  However, the city moved to revoke the suspension of his sentence asserting that he violated the condition of his probation.  Regan argued that the municipal court was collaterally estopped from finding he violated his probation condition in light of the not guilty verdict at trial.  The municipal court disagreed and issued 5 days of jail based on the criminal trespass charge.  Although the Superior Court found in Regan’s favor, the Court of Appeals reversed.

Some background is necessary.  Under WA law, in order to revoke probation, the judge need only be “reasonably satisfied” that the defendant committed the assault and/or the criminal trespass.  The defendant is not entitled to make the City/State prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

Here, the WA Supremes reasoned that acquittal on criminal charges stops does not stop (or, more specifically, collaterally estop) a court from revoking parole for the same conduct.  The Court looked at the plain language of Regan’s probation conditions and flatly decided the conditions prohibited him from engaging in conduct that is proscribed by the criminal law.  “In no way do the definitions of “violate” or “violation” imply a proof or procedural requirement.”    Therefore, when a court conditions the suspension of a sentence on a probationer not violating the law, the context does not imply that a conviction is required.

My opinion? It’s really disturbing when judges revoke a defendant’s probation when s/he obtains criminal charges that haven’t been proven guilty in a court of law.  I’ve never understood that.  It’s a major flaw of the criminal justice system.  It seems more fair that someone who has invested the time and expense of fulfilling their probation requirements – meeting with probation officers, obtaining evaluations, making court payments, obtaining treatment, etc. – falls in danger of getting kicked off probation if police and/or prosecutors file B.S. charges that have not been proven in a court of law under the reasonable doubt standard.

Despite WA law, I believe that criminal charges must be proven in order to revoke a defendant’s probation.  The status quo simply gives the police and prosecutors too much power.  Period.

State v. Erickson: Probation Officers Given Too Much Power

Ugly opinion.  WA Supremes decided a court may issue a bench warrant without a formal finding of probable cause on the underlying allegations after the defendant fails to appear at a probation violation hearing.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=815941MAJ

Anthony Erickson received probation after he was convicted of fourth degree assault.  His probation officer alleged Erickson violated the terms of his probation.  Erickson was issued a summons ordering him to appear at a probation violation hearing.  When Erickson failed to appear, the court issued a bench warrant for his arrest.  Erickson was subsequently arrested.  A strip search at the jail revealed he possessed cocaine.

The WA Supremes reasoned that because Erickson failed to notify the court of any change of address, the judge in the lower court had a “well-founded suspicion” that Erickson had violated that condition of his release.  Consequently, the judge had authority to issue the bench warrant based on that alone.

My opinion?  It’s unbelievable that the allegations – and that’s all they are, mere allegations – of a probation officer are upheld as stone-cold truth by judges if a defendant fails to show up for a hearing.  It’s unbelievable that judges can now issue bench warrants because a defendant failed to notify their probation officer of an address change.  It’s unbelievable that defendants can be taken into custody, strip searched, and arrested because they failed to notify their probation officer of an address change.

This case highlights how unfairly the gears of the criminal justice system grind away at individual rights.  I hope this gets appealed to a higher court.

Closing Prisons, Slashing Sentences Eyed to Balance Budget

Excellent Seattle Times article.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/politics/2009010460_criminaljusticecuts09m.html

In a sour economy, Washington and other states’ lawmakers are considering budget cuts that would close prisons, loosen sentencing guidelines and slash probation terms.  Lawmakers in Olympia are looking for nearly $4 billion in spending cuts.

My opinion?  Make lemonade out of lemons.  Perceive our budget woes as opportunities to revamp our criminal justice system.  Community service helps everyone.  Jailing low-level offenders helps no one.

Studies show the most expensive and least productive response to drug, mental-health and poverty-driven crime is full confinement. The most effective and most cost-productive response is community-based work, education and retraining.

True, there are some very violent and nasty defendants who probably should be incarcerated (even though they STILL deserve the benefits of a system which adamantly preserves their constitutional rights).  However, most people in the criminal-justice system are not in that violent category. Most are caught up in generations of a lifestyle where low-level crime is the accepted norm. It is these people who are unnecessarily sanctioned with long jail/prison sentences, parole, probation, etc.

My hope is that now, when we are asked to re-evaluate our use of limited resources, we will make the change for a broader, more socially beneficial response to crime.  Don’t spend hundreds of millions on penal institutions that give nothing back.  Instead, spend tens of millions on people.  Schools, community centers and community work programs are cheaper than jails.

Drug Courts Huge Success

A National Study found that Drug Courts are widely succesful. 

Here’s a summary of the study’s findings:

RECIDIVISM

Graduates of drug courts are less likely to be rearrested than persons processed through traditional court mechanics. Findings from drug court evaluations show that participation in drug courts results in fewer rearrests and reconvictions, or longer periods between arrests.

COST SAVINGS

Nationwide, drug courts save taxpayer dollars compared to simple probation and/or incarceration, primarily due to reductions in arrests, case processing, jail occupancy and victimization costs. While not all persons diverted to drug court would have otherwise been sentenced to prison, for those individuals who are incarcerated, the average annual cost is estimated to be $23,000 per inmate, while the average annual cost of drug court participation is estimated to be $4,300 per person.

THE EFFECT OF SANCTIONS

The study showed that Drug Courts which reward/sanction all levels of good/bad behavior recognize there is value in incremental progress toward the goal of abstinence.

A participant who faithfully makes all court appearances and meets the obligations of the court may be rewarded with an acknowledgement of accomplishment.  On the other hand, developing a flexible, graduated sanction program is a crucial contributor to a successful drug court program, because even those who are eventually successful in drug court tend first to relapse, warrant, and violate other program rules.

The study concluded that sanctioning should be seen as an opportunity to adjust treatment to limit subsequent relapse, rather than the first step on the path to an eventual termination of drug court participation and a likely sentence to custody.

ROLE OF THE JUDGE

One of the unique aspects of the drug court model is the frequency with which judges interact with participants. The relationship is less formalistic than in traditional courtrooms and is individualized based on the judge’s supervision of an individual’s progress.  The goal is partnership, not sentencing. 

My opinion?  I’m a HUGE fan of drug court!  First, it’s a great negotiating alternative for my clients facing drug charges IF the prosecutor’s charges are fairly strong, evidence is unlikely to be suppressed, and a jury would probably find the offender guilty.  Second, it’s impossible to treat drug addiction with jail or prison sentences.  Period.  Once released, the offender may likely continue using drugs.  Drug Court strikes at the root of the problem by addressing the drug addiction itself.  Finally, the program forces offenders to stay focused on treatment.  The State moniters treatment.  If offenders fail, they may face heavy consequences and get kicked out of Drug Court.

Drug Court should be implemented to a greater degree than it already is.  It presents a win/win situation for everyone: the public, courts, prosecutors, and ultimately the offender.

 

Defendants Could Be Free From Probation

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/402697_supervision07.html

Lawmakers, facing an $8 billion budget deficit, are looking for ways to save money.

Senate Bill 5288, which would lower the number of criminal offenders on parole or probation, reflects suggestions made by the governor to reduce the growing budget deficit by making cuts in the Corrections Department.

Interestingly enough, police gurus support the bill “with some discomfort,” but feel that if the Legislature must make cuts in the Department of Corrections, supervision of low- to moderate-risk offenders would be the right place.

The bill would totally eliminate supervision of low- and moderate-risk offenders unless they were convicted of a violent offense, a crime against a person, or ordered to chemical dependency treatment.

Their supervision would be terminated after six months if they have not reoffended.  However, those offenders categorized as high risk, or low to moderate risk convicted of a sex offense, would still be supervised.

Under the current wording of the bill, gross misdemeanants would not be supervised by parole or probation.  The cost-savings would ultimately mean a big job loss for probation officers.

My opinion?  Pass the legislation!  For the most part, my clients are hardworking; law abiding citizens facing criminal charges from an isolated event or circumstance.  All of the sudden, they get labelled as criminals.  The system painfully grinds them through a process which threatens to take their time, money, dignity, energy, and reputation.

For many of my clients, probation is an unnecessary evil.  Understand this:  in Whatcom County, a first-time DUI offender and/or Domestic Violence offender faces up to TWO YEARS of probation at a cost of $75-$100 per month.  Do the math.  That’s $900 – $1200 per year.   This cost, along with the cost of mandatory treatment, jail, and fines, clearly skyrockets the cost of doing justice.

And for what?  Why?  Is it because the police sometimes violate your Constitutional rights when they pull you over and investigate you for DUI?  Or is it because the police MUST arrest someone in the wake of a heated argument between spouses?  An argument where, in most cases, the victim does not want to pursue prosecution and wants the charges dropped?

“Alex, please do something to get me off probation or decrease the amount of time I’m on it.”  These words are uttered by many clients who want to avoid trial and negotiate a favorable resolution with the prosecutor.  They hire me to get justice.

The legislature is finally realizing probation is unnecessary in many circumstances.  Either that, or they’re realizing probation is expensive in roughshod economic times.  In any event, let’s all realize the obvious and pass this legislation.

Increased Numbers On Parole & Probation in WA

Washington ranks near the bottom in the country for the number of people it incarcerates, but like many states, it’s having to find ways to pay for a steadily growing number of people on probation and parole.

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/643665.html

According to the above article, one in 30 adults is under correctional control in the state.  With more than 165,000 people either incarcerated or on parole or probation, Washington state ranks 17th out of all the states.  But Washington ranks 44th for the people it puts behind bars – just over 32,000 are incarcerated in either prison or jail.

Consequently, the vast majority are either on probation or parole – more than 133,000, or about one in 37 people, ranking the state 12th in the nation.

The numbers of those under community supervision have increased.  Unfortunately, so have the costs. For the 2003-2005 budget, about $190 million went toward supervision. For the current budget ending in 2009, it has increased to nearly $307 million. While that’s just a small part of the state’s $1.8 billion two-year corrections budget, in a year where the state is facing a projected $8 billion deficit through 2011, officials are feeling the pinch.

Interesting times . . .