Friday, October 26, 2012

Probation revocation may or may not be moot after sentence completion

Matthew J. Edge won in State v. Hilton, No. 102,256 (Oct. 19, 2012), reversing the COA's dismissal of her probation revocation appeal.  Before her appeal was heard on the merits, she completed her sentence, and the COA dismissed the appeal as moot.  This is a question that comes up in different contexts--whether a sentencing or probation violation appeal is moot after completion of the sentence.  The KSC noted another case decided the same day, where it held that, if a client has stipulated to the violation and the prison sentence is expired, the appeal is moot:
Regardless of whether Hilton's inability to follow the rules and perform on probation resulted in the immediate revocation of one probation or two, her conduct while on probation will be what is germane to any future assessment of her amenability to probation. In other words, it is not the sanction for violating probation that makes a person nonamenable to probation, it is the violation itself. Accordingly, as in Montgomery, this appeal presents a moot issue.
This leaves open the possibility (or even likelihood), though, that if the probation violation had been contested, the appeal would not be moot.   If "the violation itself" is contested, the resulting potential finding of nonamenability to probation in a future case would still be a direct consequence that would support an appellate determination, even after completion of the sentence.

In any case, the KSC, held that Ms. Hilton's appeal was moot, but ultimately held that the case should be heard on appeal because the issue presented is likely of repetition yet evading review.  The KSC acknowledged that, given the fact that most probation violation appeals involve short sentences, it is quite unlikely that most can get effective appellate review before expiration of the sentence.  So if there is an important legal issue presented by the case, this doctrine is likely to apply and did apply in this case.

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