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No ‘Corpus Delicti’ Rule for Revocation

A defendant cannot overturn revocation of a suspended sentenced with her argument that her own uncorroborated statement was the only proof she had violated conditions of her probation; the Court of Appeals affirms revocation and re-suspension of defendant’s previously suspended sentences on six felony convictions.

Defendant initially was sentenced on one count of cocaine possession and five counts of passing a worthless check. The circuit court suspended all 13 years of her sentence and placed her on indefinite supervised probation. By order May 14, 2009, the circuit court revoked and re-suspended defendant’s 13-year sentence and again placed her on probation for an indeterminate period.

Her probation officer later informed the court defendant was not responding well to supervised probation, was an alcoholic, and had admitted consuming alcohol on numerous occasions. At a subsequent hearing, the probation officer admitted the only basis for his request for a show cause was defendant’s admission that she had consumed alcohol. The court found defendant violated the terms of her probation and suspended the imposition of sentencing for 12 months on condition that defendant complete an inpatient treatment program.

The commonwealth argues defendant’s concession that she consumed alcohol on June 1, 2009, was sufficient to prove a probation violation. The court revoked each of defendant’s previously suspended sentences and re-suspended each sentence under the same terms and conditions. Defendant appealed.

Defendant’s argument is interesting, but unavailing. It is well settled that probation revocation hearings are not a stage of criminal prosecution and therefore a probationer is not entitled to the same due process protections afforded a defendant in a criminal trial. While a probation revocation proceeding is a criminal proceeding, it is not a criminal trial and therefore, formal procedures and rules of evidence are not employed.

Defendant’s reliance on the rule requiring the commonwealth to prove the corpus delicti in a criminal prosecution is misplaced. That particular rule would apply only to the commonwealth’s prosecution of defendant’s underlying felonies or for new criminal activity that may result in a new judgment of conviction and sentence. It is not applicable to the probation revocation process, which deals solely with the possible modification of a judgment already rendered.

At the June 29, 2009, and Sept. 2, 2010, probation revocation hearings, the commonwealth proved by defendant’s own statement that she used alcohol on numerous occasions during her probationary period, and thus, that she violated the terms of her probation. Although uncorroborated, if credited by the trial court, her statement was sufficient, standing alone, to prove defendant was “making a poor adjustment to supervision.” The circuit court did not abuse its discretion in revoking defendant’s previously suspended sentences and re-suspending them under the terms and conditions previously ordered by the court.

Judgment affirmed.

Downey v. Commonwealth (Humphreys) No. 1936-10-2, Oct. 25, 2011; Chesterfield County Cir.Ct. (Hauler) Mark E. Englisby for appellant; John W. Blanton, AAG, for appellee. VLW 011-7-323, 7 pp.

VLW 011-7-323

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