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 His probation was revoked and Donald was ordered to serve his sentence in the Department of Correction.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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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.