Under certain circumstances, a person convicted of a crime in West Virginia may be sentenced to probation, rather than having to serve time in jail. Probation is a form of supervised release, in which the person can continue on with his or her life while checking in with a probation officer on a regular basis. As the West Virginia Supreme Court recently explained, however, a person’s probation can be revoked at any time if he or she commits another crime while on release.
Mr. Hann pleaded guilty to one count of possession with the intent to deliver marijuana and one count of possession with the intent to deliver Percocet in April 2010. He was sentenced to five years of probation after a judge suspended Hann’s original sentence: one to five years on the marijuana charge and one to 15 years in jail on the Percocet conviction.
About three years later, Hann was charged with possession with intent to deliver Xanax and a number of other crimes. A circuit court later revoked Hann’s probation during a hearing in which he admitted to the Xanax charge and re-imposed the original sentence with a credit for some of the time served. The Xanax charge was eventually dismissed, but Hann later pleaded guilty to not having sufficient proof of auto insurance when he was pulled over by police during the same incident.
The Supreme Court later affirmed the circuit court’s decision. It also affirmed the lower court’s denial of Hann’s motion asking the court to reconsider the sentencing. The high court said Hann violated the terms of his probation by committing another crime, even though he hadn’t been convicted on the Xanax charge at the time that the sentence was re-imposed. “The terms and conditions of petitioner’s probation clearly state that “[petitioner] shall not violate any laws of this state, any other state, any municipality or the United States,” the Court explained. “Here, it is undisputed that petitioner admitted to the factual allegations in the State’s motion to revoke his probation.” The Court also noted that Hann was convicted on the auto insurance charge, which qualified as a probation violation.
The Court further noted that West Virginia law was amended to provide that first- and second-time probation violators are now given up to 60 days in jail without having their sentences re-imposed. Instead, revocation occurs under the current law upon a third probation violation. The Court said it didn’t apply to Hann, however, because the new statute wasn’t intended to apply retrospectively. “Importantly, petitioner’s conduct that initiated these probation revocation proceedings occurred before the amended statute became effective,” the Court said.
As this case shows, it is important to understand your obligations under a probation agreement. While these arrangements offer a number of benefits for criminal offenders and their families, they can be undone at any time. If you have been charged with a crime or accused of violating a probation agreement, it is vital that you seek experienced legal representation. The West Virginia criminal defense lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm have been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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