On Appeal from Superior Court, Bennington Unit, Criminal Division David A. Howard, J.
Robert F. Plunkett, Bennington County Deputy State's Attorney, and Jonathan Ward, Law Clerk, Bennington, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Sara Puls, Appellate Defender, Montpelier and Katherine M. Lamson, Public Defender, Bennington, for Defendant-Appellant.
PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Eaton, JJ.
¶ 1.Defendant appeals from a February 1, 2016 ruling of the superior court revoking his right to bail under 13 V.S.A. § 7575 after repeated violations of conditions of release (VCRs). Defendant contends that the trial court ruled on inadequate grounds, without making the necessary findings, and based on probable cause affidavits, rather than on an independent determination by a preponderance of direct evidence required for bail revocation. We reverse and remand.
¶ 2. In December 2014, defendant was charged with felony extortion, domestic assault, and unlawful mischief in the amount of $250 or less following an incident involving his mother (Docket No. 1158-12-14 Bncr). The facts pertaining to that incident are as follows. Defendant's mother was the representative payee for defendant's social security disability benefits. Defendant, who suffers from severe cognitive disabilities, went to his mother's residence in a motel called the Iron Kettle to pick up money from his social security disability check. When she refused to give him money, he threatened to harm and kill her. On December 5, 2014, defendant was arraigned on these charges and released on conditions, including a condition prohibiting him from contacting his mother or entering onto the property of the Iron Kettle. This docket remains pending.
¶ 3. Between December 2014 and January 2016, defendant was charged with several new crimes-retail theft, unlawful trespass, identity theft, prescription fraud, welfare fraud, petit larceny, grand larceny, false pretenses, and obstruction of justice-as well as seventeen VCRs for going onto the premises of the Iron Kettle or for having contact with his mother or both (Docket Nos. 127-2-15 Bncr, 201-3-15 Bncr, 290-4-15 Bncr, 313-4-15 Bncr, 344-4-15 Bncr, 402-5-15 Bncr, 523-6-15 Bncr, 594-7-15 Bncr, 694-8-15 Bncr, 801-9-15 Bncr, 1028-10-15 Bncr, 1059-11-15 Bncr, 1084-11-15 Bncr, 6-1-16 Bncr, 57-1-16 Bncr). The trial court has found probable cause to support each of these charges. In each case, defendant was released subject to conditions of release.
¶ 4. On January 29 of this year, following defendant's most recent VCR charge, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing on bail revocation under 13 V.S.A. § 7575. Section 7575 provides
The right to bail may be revoked entirely if the judicial officer finds that the accused has:
(1) intimidated or harassed a victim, potential witness, juror or judicial officer in violation of a condition of release; or
(2) repeatedly violated conditions of release; or
(3) violated a condition or conditions of release which constitute a threat to the integrity ...