COURT WATCH: Judge Rules Homeless Man on Streets Violated Parole by Not Charging GPS Monitor, but Admitted There Could Be ‘Mitigating’ Factors

By Roni Ayalon

WOODLAND, CA – Yolo County Superior Court Judge Samuel McAdam here Monday ruled a “transient” man violated his parole…by not charging his GPS monitor.

The accused, unhoused and living on the streets near the Radisson Hotel in West Sacramento, was required to wear a GPS monitoring device and charge it twice a day as a condition of his parole.

Without charging, the device dies. The battery issues a warning to the user as it reaches a critical low point. The device emits vibrations every 10 minutes until it is charged, according to Parole Officer Steve Leu.

Leu testified the accused’s device started vibrating around 1:51 a.m. and died around 5 a.m. Officer Leu said he called the West Sacramento Police Department to locate the accused and take him into custody.

According to Leu, the accused said “he thought he only had to charge it once,” referring to the device. He also said, according to Leu’s testimony, “I was going to go charge my device when the police came and woke me up.”

On cross-examination, Officer Leu acknowledged the accused was located by West Sacramento PD “at the last known ping from the GPS device.” The accused hadn’t moved from the location or tried to flee while the device was dead, said Leu, adding, “He’s been staying there consistently and charging there consistently because there is an outdoor outlet for him to use.”

Leu also agreed that it was “fair to say that an individual who is transient may not have the same consistent access to an electrical outlet as someone who is housed.”

He conceded he was not present on the day of the arrest and “didn’t have an opportunity to observe whether or not there were any technical issues with that outdoor charging outlet on the day that he was contacted and arrested.”

Deputy District Attorney David Wilson also called Police Officer Seth Killion, whose testimony detailed the arrest of the accused.

During cross-examination, Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke was able to elicit the fact the accused “didn’t try to run or evade in any way” and that he had a laptop, a backpack, and some personal belongings with him upon his arrest.

DPD Gocke argued the device was vibrating in the very early hours of morning and there isn’t any evidence to indicate that the accused “would have been conscious to be feeling the buzz, the notification of the need for the device to be recharged.”

The DPD also argued that since the accused was found with his personal belongings near the Radisson Hotel, this “would seem to indicate that he was perhaps residing outside, not inside the Radisson, thus not having consistent access to charging the device.”

Gocke noted that merely saying that the accused had this parole requirement and the device was dead “isn’t enough to show there was a willful, knowing violation in terms of allowing it to go dead, given all of the obstacles that he was facing living out on the street without consistent shelter.”

DDA Wilson argued that DPD Gocke “wants the court to assume that because of (the accused’s) transient status, a number of things follow that, but there wasn’t any evidence of that.

“He’s been on GPS for three years… It was beeping every 10 minutes so, granted, he may not have been necessarily alert for the first one but, from 1 o’clock in the morning till 5 o’clock in the morning, its beeping every 10 minutes. And it’s hard to think that after three years of being on GPS monitoring, he didn’t know or at least at a minimum when he woke up go ‘Oh no, my battery is dead, I need to plug it in,’” added the DDA.

Judge McAdam agreed with the deputy district attorney, stating, “He knows the terms and conditions of parole; he’s been subject to them for several years.”

The judge added the accused “had access to an outlet” and did not respond to his phone when receiving the call from his parole officer. He agreed the buzzing of the device for several hours “would alert any reasonable person” and there was no evidence presented that the accused wouldn’t be sensitive to the vibrations.

However, the judge admitted there were “mitigating circumstances in [the accused’s] situation,” which may affect the sentencing.

Due to a California Penal Code section 1368—mental competency of an accused—motion pending, the judge said he could not proceed to sentencing. The motion will be heard later in May, so the judge scheduled May 22 for sentencing and reviewing the PC  § 1368 report.

About The Author

Roni is a senior at UC Davis, studying Political Science - Public Service with minors in Social and Ethnic Relations, Community and Regional Development, and Sociology. She plans on pursuing a career in criminal justice reform after finishing her degree.

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