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State of Idaho v. Daniel A. Ligon-Bruno

December 12, 2011

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DANIEL A. LIGON-BRUNO,
DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Benjamin R. Simpson, District Judge.

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

2011 Opinion No. 72

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Order dismissing probation violation proceedings, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and case remanded.

The State appeals from the district court's order dismissing, for lack of jurisdiction, probation violation allegations brought against defendant Daniel A. Ligon-Bruno. The district court determined that in order for the court to possess jurisdiction to take action on a probation violation, the court must take some affirmative step to impose a sanction before the probation term expires and, because that did not occur here, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider probation violation sanctions. We reverse in part and remand.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

In 2005, Ligon-Bruno pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine. In February 2006, the district court issued an order withholding judgment and placed Ligon-Bruno on probation for four years. The court's order specifically stated that probation would expire on February 21, 2010.

On January 4, 2010, Ligon-Bruno was arrested on new drug charges. The next day, a number of documents were filed in the 2005 case: an agent's warrant,*fn1 a probation officer's affidavit, and a proposed "Order Finding Probable Cause," all apparently intended for the court's use in determining probable cause at Ligon-Bruno's initial appearance on probation violation allegations stemming from his arrest on January 4. Although it is not entirely clear from the record, it appears that these documents were filed by Ligon-Bruno's probation officer without the involvement of the county prosecutor. That same day, at Ligon-Bruno's probation violation initial appearance, a magistrate found that the probation officer's affidavit did not establish the requisite probable cause to believe that Ligon-Bruno had violated probation, and the magistrate therefore ordered Ligon-Bruno's release from custody on the probation violation charge. On January 6, 2010, Ligon-Bruno bonded out of jail on the new drug charges.

On January 8, 2010, a "Report of Probation Violation" prepared by the probation officer was filed.*fn2 The report said that Ligon-Bruno had violated two conditions of his probation on January 4, 2010, because he had been found in possession of methamphetamine and had tested positive for amphetamine and marijuana. In the last paragraph, the report requested that a bench warrant be ordered to replace the agent's warrant and that "a hearing be scheduled to determine if Daniel Ligon-Bruno is in violation of his probation." The probation violation report lay dormant, apparently because neither the district court nor the county prosecutor was made aware that it had been filed.

A month and a half later, on February 21, 2010, Ligon-Bruno's specified probationary period expired. On February 27, he was again arrested for possession of methamphetamine occurring that day. On March 1, a second agent's warrant, a second probation officer's affidavit, and a second proposed "Order Finding Probable Cause" were filed for the court's use with respect to the newest alleged probation violation stemming from Ligon-Bruno's February 27 arrest. The next day, the magistrate at Ligon-Bruno's second initial appearance found that the probation officer's affidavit again failed to establish probable cause to believe that a probation violation had occurred, and again ordered Ligon-Bruno's release on the probation violation charge.

On March 3, 2010, a "Report of Probation Violation Addendum" signed by the probation officer was filed. Although it did not so specify, it was apparently intended as an addendum to the January 8 report of probation violation which, to that point, evidently had not been seen by either the magistrate or district court. The initial January 8 report of probation violation and associated probation officer's affidavit were routed to the district court on March 3. On that day, the district court found probable cause to believe a probation violation occurred and issued a warrant for Ligon-Bruno's arrest. Ligon-Bruno was arrested on the bench warrant on March 4, and the district court arraigned him on the probation violation allegations in the two reports on March 17.

At a May 5 hearing, Ligon-Bruno orally moved to dismiss the allegations from both the January 8 probation violation report and the addendum. He contended that in order for the district court to possess jurisdiction to adjudicate alleged violations, probation violation proceedings must commence within the probationary period and the district court must take some action toward revocation of probation within the probationary period. The State responded that, assuming court action within the probationary period was required, the district court's March 3 finding of probable cause to arrest and issuance of a bench warrant for Ligon-Bruno's arrest occurred during the probationary period because the probationary period was tolled during the time that probation violation proceedings were pending.

The district court granted Ligon-Bruno's motion to dismiss, holding that in order for a probation violation to be penalized, a probation violation affidavit must be filed, and the court must take some affirmative step to impose a sanction, before the probation expires. The district court concluded that because Ligon-Bruno's probation had expired before any court action, ...


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