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Defendants entitled to competency hearing in probation revocations

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Defendants are entitled to a competency hearing as part of their due process rights, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today, addressing the issue for the first time.

Daniel Donald argued the trial court shouldn’t have denied his request for a competency evaluation prior to his probation revocation hearing. Donald is a diabetic and had suffered a stroke, which left him with memory loss and speech, reading, and writing impairments. He was serving part of a home detention sentence following his guilty plea to dealing in methamphetamine.

A surveillance officer who came to his home for a urine sample saw Donald acting strangely in the yard, where he urinated in his underwear for the sample. The officer discovered Donald had a rubber glove in his underwear. When confronted about it, Donald took off, ran around the home, grabbed a shotgun, and ran into the woods by his home. When he was coaxed out of the woods, Donald admitted to taking methamphetamine.

Donald’s attorney requested a competency evaluation based on Indiana Code Section 35-36-3-1(a) because he didn’t think Donald could understand and help in the revocation proceedings.

The trial court ruled Donald did not have standing to ask for a competency evaluation under that statute because his request did not deal with competency to stand trial, and it also found that the request was untimely. His probation was revoked and Donald was ordered to serve his sentence in the Department of Correction.

In Daniel A. Donald v. State of Indiana, No. 23A04-0912-CR-685, the appellate court agreed Donald didn’t have a statutory right to a competency hearing because he wasn’t standing trial, but the Due Process Clause requires that a defendant be competent when participating in a probation-revocation hearing.

The judges looked to other jurisdictions, including appeals courts in Florida and Ohio, and adopted those cases’ reasoning on why defendants in Donald’s situation are entitled to a competency hearing. Probation revocation hearings are similar to criminal proceedings in that the defendant’s liberty is at stake and the defendant’s ability to help in the hearing may determine the outcome.

“Without competency, the minimal due process rights guaranteed to probationers at probation revocation hearings would be rendered useless,” wrote Judge Terry Crone.

Since the trial court denied Donald’s request based on its belief it didn’t have standing, the issue of whether or not reasonable grounds existed to order a competency evaluation wasn’t addressed. The issue was remanded for the trial court to address.  
 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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