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Miller v. State

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

July 31, 2018

RICHARD MILLER, Respondent,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF PULASKI COUNTY The Honorable John D. Wiggins, Judge

          PATRICIA BRECKENRIDGE, JUDGE

         The state appeals from the motion court's judgment sustaining Richard Miller's Rule 29.15 motion for postconviction relief and vacating the revocation of his probation and imposition of sentences on two counts of involuntary manslaughter, under section 565.024, RSMo 2000. On appeal, the state claims the motion court clearly erred in finding the trial court was without authority to revoke Mr. Miller's probation and to sentence him because the record reflects every effort was made to conduct the revocation hearing prior to the expiration of his probation term. Because the record refutes Mr. Miller's claim the trial court failed to make every reasonable effort to hold his probation revocation hearing prior to the expiration of his probation term, the motion court clearly erred in granting Mr. Miller postconviction relief. The motion court's judgment is reversed.

          Factual and Procedural Background

         On December 25, 2004, Richard Miller was traveling southbound on a two-lane stretch of Highway 63 near Rolla. As Mr. Miller approached a bridge, he pulled into the northbound lane to pass a vehicle traveling the speed limit. After he passed the car, Mr. Miller continued traveling south in the northbound lane, even as he entered a no-passing zone and "blind curve" approaching the bridge. As he crossed the bridge, he struck a northbound vehicle head-on. The couple riding in that vehicle were killed as a result of the collision.

         Mr. Miller was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the first degree, and, on September 15, 2007, a jury found him guilty as charged. On August 29, 2007, the trial court suspended imposition of sentence and placed Mr. Miller on probation for a term of five years.

         On June 26, 2012, the state filed a motion to revoke Mr. Miller's probation asserting he violated his probation by committing the class A misdemeanors of being in possession of an imitation controlled substance and drug paraphernalia. Mr. Miller's probation revocation hearing was initially set for a hearing on August 8, 2012. On August 3, a public defender entered his appearance in the case. At the August 8 hearing, the appointed public defender announced his office had a conflict with representing Mr. Miller, and the trial court continued the hearing to August 23. Thereafter, he withdrew, and, on August 14, a second public defender entered his appearance as counsel for Mr. Miller.

         On August 23, 2012, the probation revocation hearing was continued to October 3. A memorandum filed with the trial court stated: "Case reset for Probation Violation Hearing on October 3, 2012 @ 9 am. Defendant is ordered to appear." [1] The memorandum was signed by an assistant prosecuting attorney, Mr. Miller's counsel, and the trial court. Mr. Miller's term of probation expired August 28, and he received a letter advising he had been discharged from supervision by the board of probation and parole.

         On October 3, Mr. Miller and his counsel appeared for the probation revocation hearing. The hearing was continued, on the state's motion and without objection from Mr. Miller, and reset for December 5, 2012. A memorandum was filed memorializing the appearances and continuance signed by the assistant prosecuting attorney, Mr. Miller's counsel, and the trial court. On October 19, 2012, the state filed an amended motion to revoke Mr. Miller's probation, alleging two additional probation violations. In the amended motion, the state alleged, in 2008, Mr. Miller was found guilty of domestic assault in the third degree, and, in 2009, he was found guilty of driving with a revoked license.

         Mr. Miller's probation revocation hearing was ultimately held on December 5, 2012. During the hearing, Mr. Miller orally moved for dismissal on the ground the trial court no longer had statutory authority to revoke his probation because his probation term had expired. The trial court addressed whether it retained authority to hear the matter despite the expiration of his probation term:

THE COURT: There was a question about whether or not there was a necessity for a suspension. We looked up some case law, and it states that there must be a clear manifestation of an intention to revoke. The motion to revoke did that. And, secondly, that there was an attempt to get the matter set, reasonable efforts made to get it resolved prior to the expiration of five years.
I went back through the file. This matter has been set at least once, if not twice. Was continued by agreement without objection past the date - and specifically to today.
So, first of all, do the attorneys agree that that's what's transpired up to this point?
[THE STATE]: The State so stipulates, your Honor.
THE COURT: [Mr. Miller's counsel]?
[MILLER'S COUNSEL]: Yes, your Honor.
THE COURT: The oral motion to dismiss filed in these proceedings earlier this morning then is denied. I'm of the opinion that the State's manifest and clear intent, reasonable efforts were made. It passed the five years by agreement of [Mr. Miller]; therefore, this Court has not lost jurisdiction.

         The revocation hearing continued, and Mr. Miller admitted to the trial court he violated his probation by being found guilty of three misdemeanors - driving while revoked, domestic assault in the third degree, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The state presented impact testimony from the family of the two victims killed in the head-on collision. The trial court then found Mr. Miller had violated his probation. Thereafter, on February 3, 2013, the trial court ...


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