State v. Seat, 20200792-CA

CourtCourt of Appeals of Utah
Writing for the CourtHARRIS, JUDGE
Citation2022 UT App 143
PartiesSTATE OF UTAH, Appellee, v. JULIE D'ANN SEAT, Appellant.
Docket Number20200792-CA
Decision Date22 December 2022

2022 UT App 143

STATE OF UTAH, Appellee,

JULIE D'ANN SEAT, Appellant.

No. 20200792-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah

December 22, 2022

Fourth District Court, Provo Department The Honorable James R. Taylor No. 201403016

Jennifer L. Foresta, Benjamin R. Aldana, and Douglas J. Thompson, Attorneys for Appellant

Sean D. Reyes and Karen A. Klucznik, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and John D. Luthy concurred.


¶1 After Julie D'Ann Seat was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), a magistrate determined that Seat should be denied bail. Criminal charges were soon filed, and at a bail hearing that Seat requested, she proffered additional evidence-which the State did not dispute-in support of her request for bail. After the hearing, the district court denied Seat's request, and Seat immediately appealed that ruling. Weeks later, when Seat pled no contest to the DUI charge, the court ordered her released from custody and sentenced her to a suspended prison sentence and probation. But Seat eventually ended up in prison because she violated the terms of her probation by


committing yet another DUI offense; at that point, the court terminated her probation as unsuccessful and closed the case.

¶2 Seat now presses her appeal of the district court's decision to deny her pre-plea request for bail. She concedes that her challenge has been mooted by subsequent events, but she asks us to review her challenge anyway under an exception to the mootness doctrine. We decline this invitation because, in our view, this is not a case that merits application of the exception. We therefore dismiss Seat's appeal as moot.


¶3 Around 3:00 a.m. on October 17, 2020, a police officer stopped the car Seat was driving after observing erratic driving behavior. Seat did not perform well on certain field sobriety tests, and her urine tested positive for, among other things, methamphetamine. Police also found drug paraphernalia in her vehicle. Officers arrested Seat on suspicion of DUI and took her into custody. They discovered that Seat had committed two other DUI offenses within the past ten years, and that she was currently on probation related to the most recent offense. Later that morning, officers submitted to the court an affidavit of probable cause, asserting that they had grounds to charge Seat with felony DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, and other offenses.

¶4 Just after 8:00 a.m. that morning, a district judge-acting as a magistrate-reviewed the probable cause statement and, based solely on his review of that document, determined that, because the "current offense is a felony committed while on probation or parole," and because there existed "substantial evidence to support the current felony charge," Seat should be "held without bail." Four days later, on October 21, the State filed two criminal charges against Seat: (1) third-degree-felony DUI and (2) possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.


¶5 That same day, at her initial appearance, the district court found Seat to be indigent and appointed a public defender to represent her. Near the end of that brief hearing, Seat told the court that she was "concerned about the bail." The court construed this pro se comment as a request for a bail hearing, and responded by stating that it would "put it on" its calendar "tomorrow and we can talk about bail tomorrow." The court then asked the prosecutor who was staffing the first appearance hearings to "take notice" that Seat had requested a bail hearing; the prosecutor agreed to do so, and confirmed the time and location of the scheduled bail hearing. Later that evening, Seat's newly appointed defense attorney (Counsel) spoke with Seat about her bail request and the upcoming bail hearing.

¶6 The next day, when the case was called, the court-as judges often do when a case is called in the midst of a busy criminal law-and-motion calendar-asked, "[W]hat are we doing today?", and Counsel responded, "[W]e are here to address Ms. Seat's bail." The court noted that it had reviewed the magistrate's determination that Seat should be held without bail, including the magistrate's stated reasons for so ruling. Counsel then urged the court to grant Seat's request for bail, arguing that the magistrate's order should be revisited because, under the then-current bail statute, it was inappropriate "to hold somebody without bail without having an actual bail hearing where Ms. Seat is given the right to counsel."

¶7 In response, the court noted some discomfort with the idea of acting as "an appellate court" for the magistrate's decision, and indicated that it was not inclined to alter that decision without being informed of "some evidence that [the magistrate] didn't have or some argument that was not presented to him." The court stated, however, that if Seat had any new evidence to offer, it would "reconsider" the magistrate's bail decision "on that basis."

¶8 Counsel then proffered four pieces of evidence that were apparently not included in the information submitted to the magistrate:

(1) The vehicle Seat "was allegedly driving ha[d] been seized" and it was "not going to be recovered so there will be no [car] for her to drive when she is released from jail."
(2) Seat was currently living with her mother.
(3) Seat "has a 15-year-old son who she [was] trying to get back into school, [to] make sure he's taken care of."
(4) Seat had been employed prior to her arrest and hoped to return to that job upon release, although Counsel did not "know if that job is something that she can get back or not right now."

¶9 The court then asked about Seat's most recent DUI offense, seeking to confirm that the probable cause statement's representations about that offense were true. Counsel noted in response that it had occurred roughly four months earlier, and he acknowledged that Seat had been "on probation with Crossroads"-a private company that apparently provides probation services only in misdemeanor cases-in connection with that earlier offense at the time she was arrested on the current charge. Counsel did not make any assertion that any of the facts set forth in the probable cause statement were untrue. Counsel then summarized Seat's position by stating that, if the court were willing "to release her or set a reasonable bail," Seat would promptly "report to her . . . probation officer" on the other case to "get right with him and try to get her life in order," and that she would "comply with whatever pretrial conditions [the court might] impose."

¶10 The State responded by asking the court to continue to order Seat held without bail. The State emphasized that Seat was currently on probation for a very recent DUI, and noted that she had had "several issues in her past including interlock device


violations" as well as a previous conviction for "possession of a controlled substance in the jail." The State asserted that Seat would be "a risk" if she were allowed "out of jail," offering its view that Seat "will be one that will violate any court order and will drive" even if ordered not to. At the conclusion of the State's response, the court asked Counsel if he "want[ed] to be heard further," and Counsel responded in the negative.

¶11 After considering the arguments and proffered evidence from both sides, the court denied Seat's request for bail, noting its "concern[] about the relatively recent DUI and the nature of the allegations and the threat to the public in this case." Counsel then stated that he wanted "to make sure that" the court was "denying [his] request for a hearing" in which "evidence [is] actually . . . presented." The court responded by explaining that it had "considered the evidence [Counsel] gave" and that it would not modify the magistrate's "order that [Seat] be held without bail." Later that same day, Seat filed a notice of appeal challenging the court's bail decision.

¶12 A few weeks later, in November 2020, Seat and the State entered into a plea agreement, under which Seat agreed to plead no contest to the felony DUI charge, and the State agreed to dismiss the misdemeanor paraphernalia charge and make certain sentencing recommendations to the court, including a stipulation to release Seat from jail upon entry of her plea and to send her home on an ankle monitor. Seat then appeared before the court and entered that plea, whereupon the court ordered that Seat be released from jail and placed on an ankle monitor.

¶13 In January 2021, the district court sentenced Seat in keeping with the agreed-upon recommendations: a suspended prison sentence, eighty-two days in jail with credit for time served (including credit for the time spent on the ankle monitor), and a thirty-six-month probationary period with certain probation conditions. But in April 2021, Seat violated those probation conditions by committing yet another DUI offense. In June 2021, after Seat pled guilty to the latest charge, the district court


terminated her probation in this case as unsuccessful, sent her to prison, and closed the case.


¶14 Despite the fact that she eventually pled no contest, was released from custody, and her case is now closed, Seat presses the appeal she filed in October 2020 regarding the district court's denial of her pre-plea request for bail. In particular, she asserts that the court erred by denying her "request for an adversarial bail hearing at which the state should have been required to present substantial evidence to support the charges against her."

¶15 The threshold issue we must confront is mootness. Seat acknowledges that subsequent events have rendered her appeal moot, but contends that we should nonetheless reach the merits of her claim under an exception to the mootness...

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