Appellate court reverses probation revocation for man denied due process, orders new hearing

A man will get a new hearing after the Court of Appeals of Indiana concluded the Marion Superior Court violated his due process rights by not properly advising him during probation revocation proceedings.

In 2020, James Saucerman pleaded guilty to dealing in methamphetamine and was sentenced to three years, with 85 days executed and the remainder suspended to probation. Saucerman’s probation conditions included not using any illegal drugs or any controlled substances, submitting to drug screenings as directed, and reporting to the probation department.

The state filed a notice in November 2021 alleging Saucer failed to submit to drug screenings in September and October. A hearing was set, but Saucerman failed to appear and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

In December, the state amended the notice of probation violation to add a new allegation of failing to submit to a drug screen that month, as well as failing to refrain from the use of illegal drugs after Saucerman tested positive for meth at the end of November. He also failed to report to the probation department as directed on two occasions.

After his arrest in February, a remote hearing was held on the notice of probation violation.

The trial court found Saucerman had admitted two of the allegations during a colloquially between him and the court: that he had failed to submit to a drug screen as directed in December and had failed to report to probation as directed in November and December. Thus, the court revoked his probation and ordered that he serve the previously suspended time in the Department of Correction.

On appeal, Saucerman contended he was denied fundamental due process at the probation revocation hearing because he was not properly advised of his rights before the trial court accepted what it considered an admission and revoked his probation.

Pointing to Hilligoss v. State, 45 N.E.3d 1228 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015), the appellate panel agreed.

“Saucerman asserts, and the State concedes, that ‘[j]ust as with Hilligoss,’ the trial court did not advise him prior to accepting what the trial court considered an admission that he was giving up his rights to have an evidentiary hearing where the State proves the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence and to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him,” Judge Margret Robb wrote. “We agree: the trial court’s failure to properly advise Saucerman denied him fundamental due process and entitles him to a new hearing.”

The case of James Saucerman v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-501, was thus remanded for a new hearing on the alleged probation violations.

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