Some people who are arrested, charged, and eventually convicted of a crime may be able to avoid prison time through probation. This is a form of supervised release in which the person is allowed to live freely and go on with his or her life, as long as the person stays out of trouble and checks in regularly with a probation officer. Probation is often also a condition for folks who do some prison time but earn an early release. It’s an incredibly attractive alternative to being locked in a cell. But, as a recent West Virginia Supreme Court decision shows, your probation isn’t likely to last long if you violate the terms of the deal.
Mr. Henry was sentenced to four to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to four counts of delivery of a controlled substance in September 2009. A circuit court suspended the sentence, however, and instead ordered Henry to do five years of probation. The terms of his probation required Henry not to break the law, to stay away from people dealing in drugs, and to abstain from using or possessing drugs.
It appears that Henry didn’t follow those rules. His probation officer filed three different petitions to revoke Henry’s probation in the four-year period that followed. The first came after Henry failed a drug test, was arrested and charged with battery, and was arrested again and charged with possession of a controlled substance. The second came after he was arrested for battery again and failed to report a second controlled substance arrest. A court revoked Henry’s probation and sentenced him to prison but later softened the decision after Henry spent about two months behind bars. The court then granted Henry house arrest and probation.
The third request to revoke Henry’s probation came after he was again arrested for possession of a controlled substance, with an additional charge for obstructing a police officer. This time around, the courts weren’t so lenient. A circuit judge revoked Henry’s probation and sentenced him to the entire underlying prison term of four to 30 years.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Supreme Court said the circuit court didn’t abuse its discretion. “The terms and conditions of petitioner’s probation clearly required him not to violate any criminal law of this State; to refrain from associating with persons in the possession of a controlled substance; and to abstain from the use or possession of narcotic drugs,” the Court said. “The circuit court heard sufficient evidence to find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that petitioner violated these terms and conditions by violating the criminal laws of this state by possessing a controlled substance…”
As a result, the court upheld the prison sentence.
It’s important that a person facing criminal charges seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. 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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