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Brown v. United States

June 8, 2006

[5]     CHARLES W. BROWN, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



[6]     Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (M-12989-01) (Hon. Zinora Mitchell-Rankin, Trial Judge).

[9]     The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ferren, Senior Judge

[10]     Submitted March 29, 2006

[11]     Before FARRELL and RUIZ, Associate Judges, and FERREN, Senior Judge.

[12]     Following a show cause hearing, the trial court revoked appellant Charles Brown's probation. He contends on appeal that "the trial court committed reversible error when it revoked [his] probation without holding a hearing that afforded him due process of law." We agree, reverse, and remand for a new hearing.

[13]     I.

[14]     On January 4, 2002, appellant was convicted in a bench trial on one count of illegal dumping of automobile tires on an unauthorized dump site, in violation of D.C. Code § 8-902 (2001). He was sentenced to two years of supervised probation, coupled with a $1,000 fine payable in $500 installments during the first and second years of probation, respectively. Appellant was also ordered to undergo "drug testing and treatment as directed by probation," as well as to pay court costs of $50 on or before January 3, 2003, pursuant to the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Act of 1981.*fn1

[15]     On October 1, 2002, the court received a "probation violation report" indicating that appellant had failed to report for office visits on two occasions, tested positive for cocaine on six occasions, and failed to report for drug testing on six occasions.*fn2 Two days later, the court scheduled a hearing for October 28, 2002, for appellant to show cause why his probation should not be revoked. Copies of the show cause order were mailed to appellant at three different addresses. On October 28, 2002, a bench warrant was issued after appellant failed to appear for the hearing.

[16]     Almost twenty-two months elapsed before appellant was arrested and returned to court on the bench warrant on August 9, 2004. The trial court set bond at $1,000 and scheduled another show cause hearing for a week later on August 16. On the day of the hearing, the trial court received an "Alleged Violation(s) Report" dated August 12, 2004, indicating that appellant was subject to an outstanding traffic warrant, had failed to report for further instructions since May 28, 2004, and had been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).*fn3 On August 16, 2004, the show cause hearing was continued to September 3, 2004. On August 18, appellant posted bond and obtained his release. On September 3, after the show cause hearing, the trial court revoked appellant's probation and sentenced him to ninety days in jail. The trial court also forfeited appellant's bond, but vacated the forfeiture four days later and ordered the return of the $1,000.

[17]     II.

[18]     After the conventional exchange of "good mornings" among court, counsel, and others at the hearing, the show cause hearing proceeded in its entirety as follows:

[19]     Court: Mr. Brown. This is [sic] matter is before the Court in order to show cause. Madam.

[20]     CSO:*fn4 Yes, Mr. Brown has been noncompliant with his probation since August 2002. The last time, according to records -- I just received this case on November of 03, and according to the last yes (indiscernible 09:42:13) of the last contact that was made by Mr. Brown was 9/30/02. And in reference to that conversation, he was afraid to report because he had a bench warrant. He didn't know who was going to care for his kids. Ever since then, there has been no contact with Mr. Brown. He failed to appear for a show cause hearing. A bench warrant was issued for failure to appear in Court, also for some traffic warrants. Probation is asking for revocation.

[21]     Court: The bench warrant was executed apparently on the 9th (indiscernible 09:42:48), which ultimately brings us to where we are today. Mr. [Appellant's Counsel]?

[22]     Counsel: Well, the question I have is whether or not if Mr. Brown has paid the $1,000 fine that was imposed by the Court, and I don't know what his explanation is for having been out of contact because I didn't tell the Court what happened?

[23]     Court: Well, I don't see any indication of anything. He hasn't done anything.

[24]     Appellant: I paid the $1,000.

[25]     CSO: I'm not sure about the fine. I haven't checked the file. Court: I don't see anything in the record indicating. All right. Counsel: Is there anything in the Court record ...


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