Judge Agrees with Defense Claim Probation Overstepped Authority by Jailing Accused in Violation of Probation Conditions  

By Ivan Villegas

WOODLAND, CA – In a hearing on whether a felony accused violated his conditions of post release community supervision (PRCS), Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson in Yolo County Superior Court Tuesday argued a probation officer overstepped his authority in jailing the accused.

Judge Stephen L. Mock ultimately agreed with the public defender, and ordered the accused release from jail immediately.

“Certainly the court can order him (accused) into residential treatment today, if there is a bed available today he should go today, but he can’t be held in custody pending placement, which is what probation wants to do,” explained DPD Hutchinson.

DPD Hutchinson, summarizing his brief, said “even if the court finds him in violation of both, then he’s eligible for Prop. 36.”

Proposition 36, passed by California voters in 2000, sentences first time and repeat drug offenders convicted of drug possession or drug use to drug treatment rather than jail or prison, with some exceptions.

In response to DPD Hutchinson’s argument, Deputy District Attorney Aimee McLeod didn’t object to the accused’s eligibility for Prop. 36.

Instead, DDA McLeod maintained the accused was in violation of his conditions of PRCS for allegedly walking out of his drug treatment program, admitting to drug use and then testing positive for use.

DDA McLeod argued that the accused should be assessed for drug treatment options and sentenced to 180 days in custody, per the probation department’s recommendations.

Judge Mock then turned again to DPD Hutchinson, who explained at the last hearing “the probation officer argued that he had the unilateral authority, even if it wasn’t a term of PRCS, to order (accused) into residential treatment over his objection.”

DPD Hutchinson explained that since the residential treatment program is a custodial setting, the probation department does not have the authority to order the accused into a residential treatment program over the accused’s objection.

“My position is that because residential treatment is a custodial setting, if they’re (probation) recommending placement and the defendant is objecting to that, they can’t order it over his objection. They have to come to court and seek a court order, or file revocation,” the DPD said.

“I’m not disputing that he can’t be ordered. I’m just disputing that this (probation) officer can do it on his own initiative…Now we have a hearing, now we have the court with the authority to make that order…but the way it went about was not proper,” noted Hutchinson.

Judge Mock ruled the evidence supported the alleged violation of PRCS and said he was inclined to impose the 180-day recommended sentence and issue completion of a residential treatment program as a condition to be reinstated on PRCS.

In response, DPD Hutchinson argued, “I have no quarrel with the court’s order into residential treatment. But he should be released (from jail) today with the direction that when a bed becomes available he has to go.”

DPD Hutchinson added, “I don’t believe under Prop. 36 the court has the authority to hold him in custody until that time…I believe that under Prop. 36 he should be released today.”

Judge Mock then added, “I will reinstate and extend PRCS. I would order as an additional condition of post release community supervision that the defendant enter and successfully complete a residential treatment program. But I would also order the defendant to be released from custody today.”

Judge Mock then clarified, after DDA McLeod’s inquiry,  he was not imposing the 180-day recommended jail sentence.

Judge Mock asked as to whether there should be a future placement review hearing, to which DPD Hutchinson objected.

“If there’s a further violation then probation will file a violation. He’s [the defendant] on Prop. 36 now, there are terms to that, if he doesn’t abide we’ll be back here.”

Judge Mock agreed, “We will be back here.”

“Well, I hope we are not back here,” said DPD Hutchinson.

“As do I—in any event, the defendant will be processed out of jail today,” concluded Judge Mock.

About The Author

Ivan Villegas (he/him) is a criminal justice graduate from CSU Sacramento. He wishes to continue his studies in law school starting in fall 2023. He is interested in immigration and international law, and hopes to use his degree for a career as an immigration attorney.

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