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State of Idaho v. Christopher Allen Sanchez

May 8, 2008


Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Gooding County. Hon. R. Barry Wood, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge

2008 Opinion No. 37

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Order revoking probation, reversed.

Christopher Allen Sanchez appeals from the district court order revoking his probation. We conclude that the minor probation violation that he was found to have committed did not justify revocation of Sanchez's probation, and we therefore reverse.


Sanchez was charged with two counts of aggravated battery, Idaho Code §§ 18-903, -907(b), for stabbing two people, as well as several misdemeanors related to his scuffling with and giving false information to law enforcement officers and his possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. When these charges were incurred, Sanchez was on parole from the state of California as a result of convictions there for vandalism and corporal injury to a spouse. He had absconded from that parole by coming to Idaho. Sanchez also had an extensive record of prior crimes in California, including misdemeanor convictions for battery, burglary, telephone harassment, and drug possession offenses, and felony convictions for inflicting corporal injury on a spouse, stalking, and vandalism.

In the present case, Sanchez ultimately entered into a plea agreement pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule 11(f)(1)(C) by which it was agreed that he would plead guilty to one count of aggravated battery and would receive a suspended sentence and be placed on probation. The agreement was made with the expectation that California authorities would revoke Sanchez's parole and require that he serve the California sentence. The district court accepted the plea agreement, imposed a unified sentence of fifteen years with ten years determinate, and suspended the sentence, placing Sanchez on probation. The district court specifically conditioned Sanchez's probation upon the revocation of his parole in California and imprisonment there. Sanchez was also ordered to maintain employment, to report to his probation officer as directed, and to provide truthful and accurate documentation whenever requested by the Idaho Department of Correction. Upon Sanchez's return to California, that state imposed nine months of imprisonment for the parole violation, with credit for about eight months that he was jailed in Idaho. As a result, Sanchez was again released on parole after approximately one month.

At his California parole officer's direction, Sanchez began residing at an intensive halfway house in California. Because he was again on parole, his Idaho probation officer instructed Sanchez to pay $100 to activate an interstate compact that would transfer his supervision for the Idaho probation to California authorities. He also instructed Sanchez to telephone him on a weekly basis until this occurred.

The State of Idaho subsequently petitioned the district court to revoke Sanchez's probation, alleging that he failed to maintain weekly contact with his Idaho probation officer, failed to maintain employment, failed to pay restitution, and absconded from a treatment program in California. Two hearings were held on these allegations. The first was a probation violation hearing to determine whether the alleged violations occurred. This hearing was conducted before a district judge other than the judge who had handled sentencing. At the violation hearing, Sanchez's Idaho probation officer testified that he was aware that Sanchez was living in the California halfway house because he had received weekly telephone calls from Sanchez for a short period of time. He also received a telephone call from a third party on Sanchez's behalf, but these calls soon ceased. After the telephone calls stopped, the Idaho probation officer made one attempt to contact Sanchez at the halfway house, but was unable to reach Sanchez at the time he called. The Idaho probation officer also contacted Sanchez's California parole officer on several occasions. He testified that the California parole officer indicated that Sanchez had "absconded treatment," and later told him that Sanchez was reincarcerated in California. The Idaho probation officer also noted that Sanchez had not paid the $100 fee to complete the interstate compact transfer. Although the probation officer acknowledged that payment of the interstate compact fee was not an express term of Sanchez's probation, the State argued that it was implicit as a part of the term requiring that he report to his probation officer as directed.

At this same hearing, Sanchez testified that he attempted to find work after being paroled, but his opportunities were severely limited because his California parole officer required Sanchez to attend classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. five days a week. Sanchez testified that he was able to make contact with his Idaho probation officer on several occasions, but because he was unemployed, he ultimately had no funds to make long-distance telephone calls. For the same reason, he was unable to pay the $100 interstate compact fee. Sanchez admitted that he violated his California parole on one occasion by returning to the halfway house after curfew one evening, but explained that the violation did not result in revocation of his parole. He admitted that after he had been living in the halfway house for a few months, the state of California revoked his parole for a period of seven months. He said that this occurred when he dropped out of a required batterer's rehabilitation program because he was unable to afford the $30 fee for each session. This, he said, is what gave rise to the charge that he had "absconded treatment" in California. Sanchez also placed in evidence a parole revocation record from California that confirmed his explanation that his parole was revoked for not attending a batterer's treatment program and confirmed that he was otherwise in good standing at the halfway house.*fn1

In an oral ruling at the conclusion of the hearing, the district court found that Sanchez had violated the terms of his probation by failing to maintain adequate contact with his probation officer and by failing to complete steps to activate the interstate compact as instructed. In a subsequent written order, however, the court omitted the finding regarding the interstate compact, perhaps concluding that completing the compact was not a term of Sanchez's probation.

In a subsequent disposition hearing, the original sentencing judge again presided. At that hearing, defense counsel informed the court that Sanchez's mother had delivered to counsel a money order for the $100 needed to activate the interstate compact and transfer Sanchez's supervision to California. Defense counsel urged that the court reinstate probation conditioned upon an additional period of incarceration in the Gooding County jail until procedures to activate the interstate compact could be completed. The district court elected, however, to revoke Sanchez's probation and execute the original sentence based upon the other judge's written finding that Sanchez had violated a probation term by failing to maintain adequate contact with his probation officer.*fn2 The district court also mentioned that it ...

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