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State v. Sullivan

Supreme Court of Vermont

May 8, 2015

State of Vermont
Christopher P. Sullivan

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Supreme Court of Vermont Appeals Disposed of Without Published Opinion or Memorandum Decision." table in the Atlantic Reporter.

APPEALED FROM: Superior Court, Rutland Unit, Criminal Division. DOCKET NO. 776-5-13 Rdcr.


Beth Robinson, Associate Justice.


In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:

On April 13, 2015, defendant Christopher P. Sullivan filed this appeal from conditions of postconviction release pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7556(b). A hearing on this bail appeal was held on May 4, 2015. Defendant argues that the superior court's order that defendant give the court a surety bond or cash in the amount of $500,000 is not supported by the record. We conclude that the $500,000 requirement is supported by the record and thus affirm the order in that respect. But we conclude that the requirement that defendant give a surety bond of $500,000 -- rather than a secured appearance bond in the same amount, with defendant depositing with the clerk of the court 10 percent of that sum ($50,000) -- is not supported by the record. We thus remand to the superior court with instructions to amend its order to allow defendant to post bail by executing a secured appearance bond.

The procedural history of this case may be briefly stated. On May 2, 2013, defendant was charged by information with two felony counts: driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor with death resulting, 23 V.S.A. § § 1201(a)(2), 1210(f)(1), and leaving the scene of a fatal motor-vehicle crash, id. § 1128(c). Both offenses are punishable by up to fifteen years' imprisonment. The charges arose from defendant's actions in Rutland on the evening of April 10, 2013. Defendant consumed six to seven drinks and then fatally struck a pedestrian and fled the scene. Defendant turned himself in the following day, about seventeen hours after the crash. Following arraignment, the superior court issued orders setting conditions of pretrial release. The conditions directed defendant to give the court an unsecured appearance bond of $10,000 and comply with various nonmonetary conditions of release, including surrendering his passport; abstaining from the possession, consumption, or purchase of alcohol; and submitting to random alcohol testing. Defendant posted bond and was released for the twenty-two months before the trial. During that time he complied with all conditions of release.

On March 19, 2015, defendant was convicted on both counts following a jury trial. Immediately following the jury verdict, the superior court reviewed the conditions of release following the verdict. See 13 V.S.A. § 7574 (" Upon an adjudication of guilt, the trial judge shall review the terms and conditions of release and may terminate them or may continue or alter them pending sentence or pending notice of appeal or the expiration of the time allowed for filing notice of appeal." ). After hearing argument from defendant and the State, the Court increased the bail requirement to $500,000 in cash or a surety bond, continued the nonmonetary conditions that were imposed pretrial, and added several new nonmonetary conditions, barring defendant from traveling outside Rutland County without court permission; barring defendant from driving; and requiring defendant to report daily to the sheriff's department at specified hours.

Defendant, who on appeal is eligible for public-defender services as a financially needy person, was unable to post cash or execute a surety bond in the amount of $500,000. He was thus taken into custody and remains in jail at this time. On March 31, 2015, defendant filed a bail-review motion in the superior court, seeking to modify conditions of release. See id. § 7554(d)(1). Defendant proposed amending the order to allow for release upon the posting of a secured-appearance bond for $500,000. See id. § 7554(a)(1)(D) (providing that as condition of release, court may " [r]equire the execution of a secured appearance bond in a specific amount and the deposit with the clerk of the court, ... of a sum not to exceed 10 percent of the amount of the bond, such deposit to be returned upon the appearance of the person as required" ). Following a bail-review hearing on April 3, 2015, the court denied the motion. Defendant appealed to this Court. Id. § § 7574, 7556(b).

The statute governing release pending sentencing, disposition of post-trial motions, and appeal is 13 V.S.A. § 7574, which provides:

In ... review[ing] [conditions of release following conviction], the judge shall consider the factors set forth in subsection 7554(b) of this title, as well as the defendant's conduct during the trial and the fact of conviction.

In turn, " the factors set forth" in 13 V.S.A. § 7554(b) are:

[T]he nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence against the accused, the accused's family ties, employment, financial resources, character and mental condition, the length of residence in the community, record of convictions, and record of appearance at court proceedings or of flight to avoid prosecution or failure to appear at court proceedings. Recent history of actual violence or ...

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