A judge can revoke a defendant’s probation for a violation even if the defendant didn’t mean to violate his probation, the Alaska Court of Appeals has ruled.
The decision stems from a ruling which Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip M. Pallenberg revoked a defendant’s probation because the man didn’t show up to a polygraph appointment. The defendant, James Allen Charles, Jr. — a convicted sex offender — claimed that he didn’t miss the appointment on purpose, according to the Court of Appeals decision written by Judge Marjorie K. Allard on Dec. 28.
He argued that a court should only revoke a defendant’s probation if the defendant willfully violates his or her probation conditions. Charles also argued that courts can’t find a defendant guilty of violating probation if the defendant is not in a rational mental state, Allard wrote.
Prosecutors argued that a defendant should be held responsible for any violation that occurs, Allard wrote. The Court of Appeals disagreed in part with both Charles and the state, stating that this is not a black and white issue.
A defendant’s mental state could be a factor in whether to revoke probation, Allard wrote, as could a defendant’s “blameworthiness.” The overarching question when it comes to probation is whether there is “good cause” to revoke it, Allard wrote.
To find “good cause” to revoke probation, a judge must find that allowing the defendant to remain on probation would be a threat to society, Allard wrote. To find this, a judge must take everything into account, including a defendant’s mental state, a defendant’s prior history and the seriousness of the violation at hand, the Court of Appeals ruled.
In Charles’ case, Pallenberg ruled in 2014 that Charles’ failure to keep his appointment was part of a larger pattern of not complying with probation. Charles was sentenced to nine months for the violation.
Charles, 57, has multiple sexual assault convictions and has violated probation multiple times, as detailed in the Court of Appeals decision. Charles acknowledged that he was given advance notice of the polygraph appointment and that he was aware that he needed to do as his probation officer told him. Still, he didn’t show up for the appointment.
The Court of Appeals upheld Pallenberg’s ruling, agreeing that there was “good cause” to revoke Charles’ probation despite Charles not necessarily violating probation on purpose.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.