State v. Dagnan, M2020-00152-SC-R11-CD

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtROGER A. PAGE, CHIEF JUSTICE.
Docket NumberM2020-00152-SC-R11-CD
Decision Date04 March 2022



No. M2020-00152-SC-R11-CD

Supreme Court of Tennessee, Nashville

March 4, 2022

Session Heard at Columbia December 1, 2021 [1]

Appeal by Permission from the Court of Criminal Appeals Circuit Court for Marion County No. 9885v5 Justin C. Angel, Judge.

This appeal concerns the revocation of a criminal defendant's probation. We granted Defendant's application for permission to appeal to consider whether revocation proceedings are a one-step or two-step process on the part of the trial court and the appropriate appellate standard of review to be employed in reviewing such determinations. Defendant in this case pleaded guilty to theft of property over $1, 000 but less than $10, 000 and received a six-year sentence, which the trial court suspended to supervised probation. A series of revocation proceedings ensued. At Defendant's fifth and final revocation hearing, the trial court fully revoked his probation. Defendant took issue with the consequence imposed for his probation violation; however, the Court of Criminal Appeals found no abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court and affirmed its decision. Judge Timothy L. Easter filed a separate concurring opinion in which he emphasized his belief that a trial court, after it has determined probation should be revoked, is not statutorily required to hold an additional hearing or make any additional findings to determine the manner in which the original sentence should be served. We granted Defendant's application for permission to appeal. While we do not agree with Defendant that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering him to serve the balance of his six-year sentence in prison, we do take this opportunity to clarify and bring uniformity to the standards and principles applied by the trial courts and appellate courts in probation revocation proceedings. We conclude that a probation revocation proceeding ultimately involves a two-step inquiry. A trial court, upon finding by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant violated the conditions of his or her probation, must determine (1) whether to revoke probation, and (2) the appropriate consequence to impose upon revocation. On appeal, the appellate court must review both decisions separately for abuse of discretion. More specifically, if the trial court has properly placed its findings on the record, the


standard of review for probation revocations is abuse of discretion with a presumption of reasonableness. Considering this Court's prior opinions establishing the appellate standard of review of a trial court's sentencing decisions, we expressly extend the same principles to appellate review of a trial court's decision to revoke probation. Because we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in Defendant's case, we affirm the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Tenn. R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals Affirmed

Brennan M. Wingerter, Assistant Public Defender - Appellate Director, Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference; B. Jeffery Harmon, District Public Defender; and Norman Lipton, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Craig Dagnan.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée Sophia Blumstein, Solicitor General; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Ronald L. Coleman, Assistant Attorney General; J. Michael Taylor, District Attorney General; and Sherry Shelton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Roger A. Page, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Sharon G. Lee, Jeffrey S. Bivins, and Holly Kirby, JJ., joined.



I. Factual & Procedural Background

In July 2014, Craig Dagnan ("Defendant") was accused by his landlord, Robert E. Turner, of stealing two of the landlord's firearms and several of his tools. The total value of the property was estimated at just over $1, 000. A Marion County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, charging him with theft of property over $1, 000 but less than $10, 000, a Class D felony at the time of the offense. In January 2015, Defendant pleaded guilty as charged and received a six-year sentence as a Range II offender, with five years, six months, and nine days suspended to supervised probation.[2] The trial court also ordered him to pay $1, 250 in restitution, to complete 100 hours of community service, and to have no contact with the victim.

Five separate revocation proceedings followed Defendant's original sentencing hearing. Defendant's first probation violation occurred four months later. In May 2015, a


petition to revoke probation was filed against Defendant alleging that he had failed to pay his court-ordered restitution. Defendant failed to appear at the initial hearing on the matter and was thereafter arrested. At a later probation revocation hearing, the trial court found that Defendant had violated the conditions of his probation and partially revoked his probation to serve ninety days in local confinement.

Defendant incurred his second violation later that same year. In October 2015, Defendant failed a drug screen by testing positive for methamphetamine and again had failed to pay restitution. The trial court issued a summons, but according to Defendant's probation supervisor, he failed to report as directed. After a hearing in January 2016, the trial court found that Defendant had violated the terms of his probation and partially revoked his probation to serve eight months in local confinement.

In May 2018, Defendant was the subject of a third probation proceeding. His probation officer sought to revoke Defendant's probation because of several alleged violations, including failing to abide by his curfew, leaving the state without permission, incurring a new criminal charge-driving with a suspended license-in Georgia, and failing to report the new charge. Defendant failed to appear at the revocation hearing and was later arrested. The trial court subsequently entered an order finding that Defendant had violated the conditions of his probation and partially revoking his probation to serve 120 days in confinement. The court ordered Defendant to attend an anger management course and prohibited him from driving without a valid license as additional probation conditions.

In November 2018, the trial court issued a warrant based on the probation supervisor's affidavit alleging, for a fourth time, that Defendant had violated the terms of his probation. The affidavit stated that Defendant failed a drug screen, failed to abide by his curfew, failed to attend court-ordered anger management classes, and failed to report his change of residence. After a hearing in January 2019, the trial court entered an order partially revoking Defendant's probation to serve eleven months and twenty-nine days in confinement. The court indicated in its written order that it "may consider a furlough into a long-term inpatient [alcohol and drug] treatment."

The following month, the trial court granted the furlough and allowed Defendant to be released from jail to the Freedom House Ministry for treatment. Completing treatment would entitle Defendant to receive day-for-day credit toward his jail sentence. Defendant signed the order and, by doing so, agreed to certain conditions of the furlough. Notably, the order required Defendant to report back to the Marion County Jail within four hours if he left the treatment facility for any reason prior to completion of the program.

The present appeal stems from Defendant's fifth probation violation. In June 2019, the trial court issued a warrant based on another affidavit claiming that Defendant had violated the terms of his probation. The affidavit stated that Defendant had absconded after


failing to complete alcohol and drug treatment at Freedom House Ministry in April 2019. In addition, Defendant was charged in Georgia with misdemeanor failure to appear. He also allegedly failed to pay supervision fees, court costs, and/or fines, and failed to report his arrest. Defendant was apprehended in Georgia on June 22, 2019, and was later charged with escape.

The revocation hearing concerning Defendant's most recent alleged violations took place on December 16, 2019. Defendant's supervising officer, Courtney Shelor, testified that she was informed that Defendant "was picked up on a new charge in Dade County, Georgia . . . [when he] was suppose[d] to have been in Freedom House Ministries rehab." Ms. Shelor explained that if Defendant left the treatment facility, he was supposed to report to the jail or contact her. She testified that Defendant never contacted her, but when she contacted Freedom House Ministries, the director informed her that Defendant had been dismissed. The State then produced a letter from the treatment facility confirming that Defendant had been discharged.

Next, Marion County Sheriff's Department employee, Brittany Ables, testified that she received a telephone call from Freedom House Ministries in April 2019 informing the department that Defendant was being discharged. Ms. Ables spoke to Defendant and told him that because he had been furloughed into the treatment facility, he was required to report back to jail. She advised him to stay at the facility until an officer could pick him up, but Defendant left before an officer arrived.

The defense called the director of operations for Mountain Movers Addiction Recovery, Jason Lee Skinner, to testify concerning his treatment facility's willingness to accept Defendant into their rehabilitation program. Mr. Skinner opined that Defendant was wrongfully discharged from Freedom House Ministries, a program with which Mr. Skinner was also associated.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court explained that it was conducting a two-step...

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