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State ex rel. Coleman v. Horn

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

March 5, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. APRIL L. COLEMAN, Relator,
v.
THE HONORABLE WENDY L. WEXLER HORN, Respondent.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION

          Mary R. Russell, Judge.

         Relator, April Coleman, seeks a writ of prohibition preventing the circuit court from taking any action in this case other than discharging her from probation.

         During Coleman's term of probation, the division of probation and parole issued four notices of citation, none of which resulted in the issuance of probation violation warrants or the suspension of Coleman's probation. The division issued a field violation report in June 2016 resulting in the circuit court suspending Coleman's probation and issuing a capias warrant for her arrest. A probation violation hearing was scheduled for February 2018. Coleman filed a motion to be discharged from probation, which the circuit court overruled. This Court issued a preliminary writ.

         Based on the record, the notices of citation were not "initial violation reports" or "violation reports" pursuant to section 217.703.[1] The division's issuances of notices of citation did not stop the accrual of earned compliance credits (ECCs) pursuant to section 217.703 because Coleman was not out of compliance with the terms of her probation. After the May 2016 optimal discharge date, the circuit court did not have the authority in February 2018 to hold a probation revocation hearing, and further, the circuit court should have discharged Coleman from probation. This Court makes permanent its preliminary writ of prohibition.

         Background

         Coleman pleaded guilty to one count of the Class C felony of distribution of a controlled substance in October 2013. She was given a suspended imposition of sentence and placed on five years' probation under the supervision of the division of probation and parole.

         From January 2014 to September 2014, the division filed with the circuit court three case summary reports. Each listed Coleman's optimal discharge date as May 1, 2016, indicating she would be discharged from her probation on this date should she be awarded ECCs during each month of her probation. In April 2015, the division issued the first document titled "Notice of Citation." In the notice, Coleman was cited for a positive urinalysis for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and nonpayment of monthly intervention fees. Later that month, the division issued a fourth case summary report, in which Coleman's optimal discharge date remained May 1, 2016. The division issued three more notices of citation in November 2015, February 2016, and April 2016. In the November 2015 notice, Coleman was cited for testing positive for THC and failing to report as directed. In the February 2016 and April 2016 notices, Coleman was cited for admitting to the use of marijuana and failing to report as directed. No probation violation warrants were issued as a result of any of the notices of citation.

         In June 2016, the division issued a document titled "Field Violation Report," which was filed with the court in August. The report did not include an earned or optimal discharge date but noted an earned discharged date would be established when Coleman paid her restitution in full. The report further noted that Coleman would not be awarded ECCs until her costs were paid. The probation officer recommended "capias, suspension" and provided that a probation violation warrant would be issued. The circuit court issued an order suspending Coleman's probation and ordering issuance of a capias warrant for her arrest. The order set a revocation hearing for September. On the date of the hearing, the circuit court took notice the warrant had not been served, and the cause was passed generally pending service of the warrant.

         A probation violation hearing was scheduled for February 2018. Before the hearing, Coleman filed a motion to be discharged from probation, arguing the circuit court lacked authority to have suspended her probation. Coleman argued that under section 217.703 she was entitled to ECCs during the four months the division issued a notice of citation, effectuating her discharge in May 2016, prior to both the submission of the field violation report and order suspending her probation. The circuit court issued an order overruling Coleman's motion, which determined a notice of citation has the same meaning as a "violation report" for purposes of section 217.703. The circuit court rescheduled the probation revocation hearing.

         Coleman filed a petition for a writ of prohibition or, in the alternative, a writ of mandamus in the court of appeals, seeking to bar the circuit court from holding a probation violation hearing and from taking any action other than discharging her from probation. The court of appeals denied Coleman's petition. This Court issued a preliminary writ. Coleman now seeks a permanent writ of prohibition from this Court barring the circuit court from holding a probation violation hearing and from taking any action in this case other than discharging her from probation.

         Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

         This Court has jurisdiction to "issue and determine original remedial writs." Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 4. A writ of prohibition may issue to: (1) "prevent the usurpation of judicial power when a lower court lacks authority or jurisdiction;" (2) "remedy an excess of authority, jurisdiction or abuse of discretion where the lower court lacks the power to act as intended;" or when (3) "a party may suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted." State ex rel. Strauser v. Martinez, 416 S.W.3d 798, 801 (Mo. banc 2014).

         Analysis

         This case presents the question whether the issuance of notices of citation to Coleman resulted in her remaining in compliance for purposes of the division's calculation of ECC accrual. The division issued to Coleman notices of citation in April 2015, November 2015, February 2016, and April 2016. The awarding of ECCs is governed by section 217.703.

Section 217.703.1 provides:
1. The division of probation and parole shall award compliance credits to any offender who is:
(1) Not subject to lifetime supervision . . .
(2) On probation, parole, or conditional release for [certain offenses, including distribution of a controlled substance];
(3) Supervised by the board; and
(4) In compliance with the conditions of supervision imposed by the sentencing court or board.

(Emphasis added).

         There is no dispute Coleman met the requirements in section 217.703.1(1), (2), and (3). The issue is whether, under section 217.703.1(4), Coleman was "[i]n compliance with the conditions of supervision imposed by the sentencing court or board." If Coleman was "in compliance" from the beginning of her probation in November 2013 through April 2016, then, pursuant to section 217.703.3, [2] she accrued sufficient ECCs to reduce her five years' probation term by 30 months and effectuate her discharge in May 2016. After that date, the circuit court lacked authority to revoke her probation. See Strauser, 416 S.W.3d at 801 ("When the probation term ends, so does the court's authority to revoke probation.").

         To determine the meaning of "in compliance," section 217.703.4 and section 217.703.5 are instructive. Section 217.703.4 provides, "For the purposes of this section, the term 'compliance' shall mean the absence of an initial violation report submitted by a probation or parole officer during a calendar month, or a motion to revoke or motion to suspend filed by a prosecuting or circuit attorney, against the offender." (Emphasis added). Further, section 217.703.5 provides, "Credits shall not accrue during any calendar month in which a violat ...


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