COA affirms authority given to community corrections directors

A state statute allowing community corrections program directors to recommend the revocation of an offender’s placement is not unconstitutional because it does not infringe upon the power of the judicial branch, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled in a decision upholding a Vigo County revocation decision.

After pleading guilty to Class A dealing in methamphetamine and Class C felony neglect of a dependent in 2010, Trevor Morgan was granted placement in a community transition program in 2013. However, after violating the terms of his placement, Morgan was ordered to serve two years of his suspended sentence in a work release program under the supervision of Vigo County Community Corrections.

Then in January, the state petitioned the court to revoke Morgan’s placement in the work release program, alleging he had committed nine rules violations including insubordination, escape and being in unauthorized areas. Morgan admitted to some of the allegations against him, but provided excuses for others.

The Vigo Superior Court ultimately revoked Morgan’s placement and ordered him to serve the remainder of his 10-year suspended sentence in the Department of Correction, prompting his appeal in Trevor L. Morgan v. State of Indiana, 84A01-1703-CR-587. On appeal, Morgan argued Indiana Code section 35-38-2.6-5 (2015) is unconstitutional because it “impermissibly delegates judicial authority to the executive branch,” or the community correction director, by allowing the revocation of placement “without an evidentiary hearing before a neutral and detached magistrate.” However, Morgan did not raise that challenge in the trial court, so he argued before the Indiana Court of Appeals that the trial court committed fundamental error.

Under I.C. 35-38-2.6-5 (2015), a community corrections director can change the terms of a person’s placement, reassign a person or request the court revoke a person’s placement if they violate the rules. In a Wednesday opinion, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Melissa May said none of that delegated authority is unconstitutional.

That’s because the statute allows community corrections directors to recommend the revocation of placement, while the authority to actually order revocation lies with the judiciary, May said. Here, the trial court did so after holding an evidentiary hearing and determining revocation was proper, she wrote.

Morgan further argued that his due process rights were violated under the 2015 amendment to the applicable statute, which removed the requirement for a hearing before revocation of a community corrections placement. But because community corrections revocations are analogous to probation revocations, I.C. 35-38-2-3(d) (2015) still requires “a hearing concerning the alleged violation,” May said.

Alternatively, Morgan argued the statute is unconstitutional as it applies to him and the hearing he received did not comply with due process requirements because “’the court deferred to an administrative decision that had already been made by the community corrections program manager.’” But the appellate panel rejected that argument, with May noting Morgan was given written notice of his violations and was given the opportunity to present his own evidence and cross-examine the state’s witness.

“Neither the State nor the trial court advanced the idea the hearing was merely a judicial review of the administrative process,” she wrote in Trevor L. Morgan v. State of Indiana, 84A01-1703-CR-587.

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