Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State of Vermont v. Morton

Supreme Court of Vermont

February 24, 2018

State of Vermont
v.
Tyreke Morton

         APPEALED FROM: Superior Court, Washington Unit, Criminal Division DOCKET NO. 1195-11-17 Wncr Trial Judge: Howard E. VanBenthuysen

          ENTRY ORDER

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

         ¶ 1. Defendant Tyreke Morton appeals from the trial court's decision to hold him without bail pending a weight-of-the-evidence hearing. 13 V.S.A. § 7553. Defendant argues that because the court initially set after-hours conditions of release, which included bail, the only basis on which he could subsequently be held without bail was through bail revocation pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7575. We disagree and affirm.

         ¶ 2. On the evening of November 5, 2017, defendant was arrested for two counts of attempted murder. In an after-hours order issued in the early morning hours, Judge VanBenthuysen imposed a surety bond or cash in the amount of $150, 000, as well as other conditions of release. Defendant's initial appearance on these charges occurred later that day in the Superior Court, Washington Criminal Division. During this initial appearance, Judge Fenster granted the State's request to hold defendant without bail pending a weight-of-the-evidence hearing, as defendant was charged with an offense that carries a penalty of life imprisonment. 13 V.S.A. § 7553. In addition, the court transferred defendant to the custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health for a competency and sanity evaluation. 13 V.S.A. § 4814. Defendant did not object to the temporary hold-without-bail order, but he was concerned that the competency and sanity evaluation occur in a timely manner. Defendant subsequently moved to stay the sanity portion of the evaluation, which the court granted.

         ¶ 3. After the Department of Mental Health found defendant competent to stand trial, he filed a motion to review bail. The court held a hearing on January 17, 2018, during which defendant argued that the court's decision at his initial appearance to hold him without bail was illegal. That is, defendant contended that because the court had set after-hours bail when he was arrested, any subsequent decision at his initial appearance to hold him without bail must be based on findings sufficient to support bail revocation pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7575, which lists bases on which bail may be revoked once court has set conditions of release. The court ruled orally that an after-hours bail order is "often based on incomplete and usually one-sided information, " and it should have the discretion at an initial appearance to change an after-hours bail order to a hold- without-bail order.[1] In addition, the court explained that since it was ready to proceed with a weight-of-the-evidence hearing under § 7553, any illegality in its decision at the initial appearance to hold without bail was moot. The court then stated that it was ready to proceed with a weight-of-the-evidence hearing. Defendant explained that he needed to review new pieces of the State's evidence and moved to withdraw his motion to review bail, which the court granted without prejudice. Defendant then appealed, reiterating his argument that bail revocation pursuant to § 7575 is the only basis upon which a court may impose a hold-without-bail order after bail has been set in the context of an after-hours determination.

         ¶ 4. We typically review a trial court's bail determination for abuse of discretion. State v. Pratt, 2017 VT 9, ¶ 20, __ Vt. __, 166 A.3d 600. In this case, however, defendant raises a question of law that we review without deference. State v. Collins, 2017 VT 85, ¶ 8, __ Vt. __, __ A.3d __ (mem.).

         ¶ 5. We hold that the trial court was not required to revoke defendant's bail pursuant to § 7575 in order to impose a hold-without-bail order at his initial appearance. We recognize that defendant frames the issue in this case broadly as whether, in the absence of any new evidence affecting the weight-of-the-evidence determination, a court may issue a hold-without-bail order other than pursuant to § 7575 bail revocation after a court has set bail, without regard to whether the initial bail order occurred after-hours, at the initial appearance, or thereafter.[2] But we decide this case on the narrower basis that a court can hold a defendant without bail following an initial appearance even though the prior after-hours order set conditions of release, including bail. We ground our holding on the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure's explicit characterization of after-hours bail orders as temporary. The temporary nature of after-hours determinations makes sense given that an initial after-hours determination is often based on an incomplete, ex parte recitation of the relevant facts, for which no record exists.

         ¶ 6. Pursuant to the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure, an after-hours bail order is a temporary order. When a person is arrested without a warrant-such as defendant-Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 3(k) explicitly describes the temporary status of after-hours bail:

A law enforcement officer after arresting a person shall contact a judicial officer for determination of temporary release pursuant to Rule 5(b) of these rules without unnecessary delay.

(Emphasis added.) Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(b) allows individual courts to "establish procedures and standards by which persons arrested with or without a warrant other than during normal business hours" may be released temporarily pending an initial appearance. Rule 5(b) further provides that the initial appearance before a judge "shall be held as soon as possible after release." V.R.Cr.P. 5(b). This plain language demonstrates that an after-hours bail order is temporary and functions as a stop-gap before the court can make a more informed bail decision at the initial appearance. See State v. Villar, 2017 VT ¶ 7, __Vt.__, __ A.3d __ ("In construing a procedural rule, we look first to the rule's plain language, just as with statutory construction."). The temporary quality of the after-hours order, and the swiftness with which the Rules mandate an initial appearance, indicates that whatever bail determination the court makes at the initial appearance replaces the after-hours order, rather than revokes it.

         ¶ 7. The structure of these Rules makes sense. The initial after-hours bail assessment is often based on an incomplete, ex parte recitation of limited facts to a judicial officer without the participation of the State's Attorney, defense counsel, or defendant. The Rules recognize the limitations of the after-hours order by treating it as temporary, pending a more thorough assessment with more comprehensive information at the initial appearance.[3]

         ¶ 8. For these reasons, we affirm the trial court's decision to hold defendant without bail pending further review in a weight-of-the-evidence hearing, if defendant requests review.

         Affirmed.

          Paul L. Reiber, Chief Justice, Beth Robinson, Associate Justice, Harold ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.