Just Get it Right

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down Walker v. State, 2015-CT-00912-SCT.  What’s interesting about this case is that it interprets Senate Bill 585 and what it says about parole revocation.  It used to be that the circuit court could revoke parole and send the prisoner back for the remainder of the term.  585 changed all of that.

The Court of Appeals decided Walker, and it went up on cert.  Later, the COA realized that it was in error.  Here is the excerpt from Supreme Court’s decision in Walker v. State:

IV. Mississippi Code Section § 47-7-37-(5)(a)

¶10. At Walker’s revocation hearing, the trial court revoked his probation and sentenced him to the entirety of his original five-year sentence. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that, because this was Walker’s first technical violation of his probation, he should have been sentenced to not more than ninety days. Subsection (5)(a) of Mississippi Code Section 47-7-37 reads in pertinent part:

. . . If the court revokes probation for a technical violation, the court shall
impose a period of imprisonment to be served in either a technical violation
center or a restitution center not to exceed ninety (90) days for the first
technical violation and not to exceed one hundred twenty (120) days for the
second technical violation. For the third technical violation, the court may
impose a period of imprisonment to be served in either a technical violation
center or a restitution center for up to one hundred eighty (180) days or the
court may impose the remainder of the suspended portion of the sentence. For
the fourth and any subsequent technical violation, the court may impose up to
the remainder of the suspended portion of the sentence. The period of
imprisonment in a technical violation center imposed under this section shall
not be reduced in any manner.

Miss. Code Ann. § 47-7-37 (Rev. 2014).

¶11. In its petition for certiorari, the State argues that Walker violated three conditions of
his parole, as reflected by Johnson’s affidavit. The State submitted that each individual
violation was a separate technical violation as contemplated by Section 47-7-2(q). Section
47-7-2(q) defines “technical violation” as “an act or omission by the probationer that violates a condition or conditions of probation placed on the probationer by the court or the probation officer.” Miss. Code Ann. § 47-7-2 (Rev. 2014).

¶12. After filing its petition, the State informed this Court of the recent decision by the
Court of Appeals, in which it acknowledged that “the conclusion in Walker is contrary to the plain language of the statute and should be overruled.” Cobbert v. State, No.
2016-CP-00446-COA, 2017 WL 2781962, at *3 (Miss. Ct. App. June 27, 2017). In Cobbert, the Court of Appeals distinguished between a “technical violation” and a “revocation order,”
which could be made up of numerous technical violations. Id. at *2. At Cobbert’s first revocation hearing, the State established three technical violations: that Cobbert failed to report to his probation officer, that he failed to pay required fees, and that he failed to pay court costs. At Cobbert’s second revocation hearing, the State established that Cobbert had failed to report once again, his fourth technical violation. Cobbert thus committed four separate acts or omissions that violated a condition or conditions of his PRS. Therefore, under the plain language of the statute, the circuit court was within its authority to impose the remainder of the suspended portion of Cobbert’s sentence. Id.

¶13. Today’s case presents similar facts. While this is Walker’s first revocation hearing,
he committed three technical violations of his probation. Pursuant to the relevant code
section, the trial court properly sentenced Walker to serve the remaining five years of his
original sentence. We adopt the Court of Appeals holding in Cobbert that a proper
interpretation of Section 47-7-37(5)(a) requires a finding of each separate violation of parole to be a separate and distinct technical violation. Walker committed three separate acts or omissions, each of which violated a condition or conditions of his probation.

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