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Active sentence despite intellectual disabilities

Where the trial court revoked appellant’s sentences and imposed a 10-year active sentence after concluding he refused to cooperate with probation, there was no abuse of discretion.

Probation conditions

“Appellant … contends the trial court abused its discretion by punishing him for violating conditions that were impossible for him to meet due to his intellectual disabilities. He relies heavily on this Court’s decision in Word v. Commonwealth, 41 Va. App. 496 (2003).

“In Word, the circuit court conditioned the defendant’s suspended sentence upon completion of a specific detention center program, which later refused to admit him on grounds of ineligibility. …Finding that it was impossible for the defendant to comply with the condition, the circuit court revoked his suspended sentence and imposed a new period of incarceration. …

“This Court held on appeal that to the extent the trial court had found the defendant in willful violation of probation for not meeting a condition that was impossible for him to accomplish, the trial court had abused its discretion. …

“Appellant analogizes his failure to cooperate with probation with the defendant’s ineligibility for a court-ordered program in Word. Under the ruling in Word, when a defendant fails to fulfill an impossible condition, the trial court may not find that the defendant has willfully violated probation.”

Nothing specific

“But appellant failed to prove that it was impossible for him to comply with the conditions to which he was subject. The cases on which he relies involve specific conditions that defendants were unable to fulfill for discrete reasons. …

By contrast, appellant has failed to specify what conditions of his probation were “impossible” for him to meet. In fact, appellant suggested it might be possible for him to comply with his probation conditions – but offered no evidence to support the suggestion.

“Moreover, the trial court found that appellant had not met even the basic obligations of probation because he was ‘abusive and confrontational’ with the probation officers, had not adhered to his medication regime, and discarded his probation plan.

“The trial court therefore did not abuse its discretion in revoking appellant’s suspended sentences.”


Harris v. Commonwealth, Record No. 1126-21-4, Nov. 1, 2022. CAV (Huff, Raphael concurring). From the Circuit Court of Prince William County (Horan). Meghan Shapiro for appellant. Lindsay M. Brooker, Jason S. Miyares for appellee. VLW 022-7-494, 23 pp.

VLW 022-7-494

Virginia Lawyers Weekly