Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In April 2016, the police stopped defendant Kimberly Love after a disturbance at a gas station. As a result of this stop, the police issued defendant a notice of intention to automatically suspend her driver’s license by May 5, 2016. The notice stated that defendant either committed a second or subsequent violation of 23 V.S.A. 1201 or refused to submit to a breath or blood test. Defendant promptly requested a hearing under 23 V.S.A. 1205, and the preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 2, 2016. At the preliminary hearing, defendant requested that the court stay the automatic suspension of her license so that defendant could drive to work and transport her daughter to school. A day later, the court denied defendant’s request on the record, stating that the court did not have the authority to stay the automatic suspension. A final hearing was scheduled for June 6, 2016. On May 23, 2016, twenty-one days after the preliminary hearing but before the final hearing date, defendant moved for dismissal of the civil suspension hearing because twenty-one days had passed since the preliminary hearing. According to defendant, this timeline violated 23 V.S.A. 1205(h)(1), which required the final hearing to be held within twenty-one days of the preliminary hearing. The State argued the controlling time frame under section 1205(h)(1) was forty-two days from the date of the alleged offense. Because the June 6, 2016 date was within this forty-two-day timeline, excluding weekends and holidays, the final hearing was properly within the time allotted by the statute. The question presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether the statutory language requiring the final hearing to be held within twenty-one days of the preliminary hearing was mandatory for second or subsequent offenses and whether, as a result, defendant’s civil suspension should have been dismissed because her final hearing was scheduled more than twenty-one days after her preliminary hearing. The trial court concluded that the twenty-one-day requirement was not mandatory and upheld defendant’s civil suspension. The Supreme Court disagreed and reversed. View "Vermont v. Love" on Justia Law

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In April 2016, the police stopped defendant Kimberly Love after a disturbance at a gas station. As a result of this stop, the police issued defendant a notice of intention to automatically suspend her driver’s license by May 5, 2016. The notice stated that defendant either committed a second or subsequent violation of 23 V.S.A. 1201 or refused to submit to a breath or blood test. Defendant promptly requested a hearing under 23 V.S.A. 1205, and the preliminary hearing was scheduled for May 2, 2016. At the preliminary hearing, defendant requested that the court stay the automatic suspension of her license so that defendant could drive to work and transport her daughter to school. A day later, the court denied defendant’s request on the record, stating that the court did not have the authority to stay the automatic suspension. A final hearing was scheduled for June 6, 2016. On May 23, 2016, twenty-one days after the preliminary hearing but before the final hearing date, defendant moved for dismissal of the civil suspension hearing because twenty-one days had passed since the preliminary hearing. According to defendant, this timeline violated 23 V.S.A. 1205(h)(1), which required the final hearing to be held within twenty-one days of the preliminary hearing. The State argued the controlling time frame under section 1205(h)(1) was forty-two days from the date of the alleged offense. Because the June 6, 2016 date was within this forty-two-day timeline, excluding weekends and holidays, the final hearing was properly within the time allotted by the statute. The question presented for the Vermont Supreme Court's review was whether the statutory language requiring the final hearing to be held within twenty-one days of the preliminary hearing was mandatory for second or subsequent offenses and whether, as a result, defendant’s civil suspension should have been dismissed because her final hearing was scheduled more than twenty-one days after her preliminary hearing. The trial court concluded that the twenty-one-day requirement was not mandatory and upheld defendant’s civil suspension. The Supreme Court disagreed and reversed. View "Vermont v. Love" on Justia Law

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In December 2009, defendant Randell Blake was convicted of filing a false insurance claim in connection with a 2007 fire at his house. Subsequent to his criminal convictions, the trial court ordered defendant to pay restitution to his insurer, Safeco Insurance Company of America (Safeco). Defendant appealed the trial court’s restitution order, arguing the order should be vacated because a general release, signed by Safeco in a related civil case, relieved him of any duty to pay it restitution. He also argued the order should be vacated because the trial court failed to make findings regarding his ability to pay restitution. The Vermont Supreme Court found that restitution and civil damages originated within separate systems, were not substitutes for each other; a civil court’s award of damages to a plaintiff did not discharge the criminal court’s duty or authority to consider and order restitution. Therefore, a civil settlement or release cannot entirely preclude a criminal restitution order because: (1) the statutory obligation to impose restitution when necessary leaves no room for private parties to preclude a court from ordering it; (2) a release does not address the underlying purposes of restitution; and (3) the victim has no standing and is not a party in the restitution proceeding, and may seek a separate remedy in an action for civil damages. Here, defendant initiated a civil suit against Safeco for payment he claimed it owed him relating to the house fire and Safeco counterclaimed. The exchange of releases extinguished these competing civil claims. The release Safeco signed did not, however, preclude an order of restitution in the related criminal proceeding. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s determination on this matter; but reversed because the trial court by not considering his ability to pay. View "Vermont v. Blake" on Justia Law

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After a jury convicted defendant Bryan Perrault of one count of possessing marijuana and two counts of possessing a depressant or stimulant, he appealed, arguing he was entitled to a new trial because he discovered, post-trial, that one of the jurors had been previously convicted of a federal felony. He also claimed that the evidence was insufficient to establish that he knowingly possessed a depressant or stimulant. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied defendant’s motion for a new trial and that the evidence was sufficient to convince the jury that the State proved the elements of 18 V.S.A. 4234(a)(1) beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Vermont v. Perrault" on Justia Law

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In December 2012, defendant Bryan Love was charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child, and he faced the possibility of significant jail time. By virtue of a plea agreement with the State, defendant instead pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts, with a “4 year deferred sentence.” If defendant fulfilled “the terms of probation and of the deferred sentence agreement,” the court would “strike the adjudication of guilt and discharge” him. If he violated “the terms of probation or of the deferred sentence agreement,” he would be sentenced. Two years after executing these agreements, defendant sought to reduce the length of his deferred-sentence term, although he labeled his request a motion to “shorten probation.” He argued that the extensive probation conditions greatly restricted his ability to find a job because they prohibited contact with children, out-of-state travel, and computer use. Defendant also argued that in one instance the presence of the convictions excluded him from consideration for a job. The State opposed defendant’s request, arguing that defendant had agreed to defer sentencing for four years, and because that period had not passed, he had not fulfilled the terms of his agreement. The trial court concluded that it had no authority to grant such relief. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed, and therefore affirmed the trial court’s decision. View "Vermont v. Love" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Shayne Fleming-Pancione is an inmate supervised by the Department of Corrections (DOC). He appealed the determination of the superior court that he was not entitled to a reduction in his Vermont sentence for time spent serving an earlier sentence in Massachusetts. Petitioner argued that because his Vermont sentence was imposed concurrent to his Massachusetts sentence, both sentences should have been calculated as if they commenced on the same date. The Vermont Supreme Court determined Petitioner’s argument was that Vermont law requires that concurrent sentences be treated as if they commenced on the same date, and that date is the earlier start date. In the Court’s view, the validity of this argument decided this case, and since it rejected petitioner’s interpretation of Vermont law, the Court agreed with the superior court that DOC correctly implemented petitioner’s sentence. View "Fleming-Pancione v. Menard" on Justia Law

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Hassimiou Bangoura appealed after he was convicted for driving under the influence (DUI), second offense. He argued that his conviction had to be reversed because of what he claimed was error in how the trial court established the existence of a predicate DUI offense. Finding no such error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Vermont v. Bangoura" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a superior court’s conclusion that the enactment of 13 V.S.A. 3606a repealed 13 V.S.A. 2504 by implication. Because the Vermont Supreme Court concluded section 3606a neither demonstrated a plain intent to repeal section 2504 nor covered the subject matter of section 2504, it reversed. View "Vermont v. Joseph" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The State of New York petitioned to extradite James Perron from Vermont, alleging that he had a sentence to serve for a grand larceny conviction. Perron was initially detained on a prerequisition warrant, but Vermont’s Governor since issued two separate warrants for petitioner’s arrest: the first authorized petitioner’s arrest as a fugitive charged by New York with grand larceny who fled justice in that state and was in Vermont; the second stated Perron escaped and failed to report for service of the sentence imposed by New York. The trial court denied Perron's prerequisition writ of habeas corpus and subsequently also denied his challenge to the Governor’s warrants. Perron appealed the trial court’s ruling. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Perron v. Menard" on Justia Law

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Defendant Dale Byam appealed a trial court’s denial of his motion seeking credit against his sentence for time spent under pretrial conditions of release. Defendant argued on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court there was a corollary to the Court's decisions in Vermont v. McPhee, Vermont v. Platt, and Vermont v. Kenvin, that would give him credit for days when he was subject to a twenty-four-hour curfew with exceptions, but when there was no guarantee that he was in fact compliant with the curfew. The Court declined to adopt defendant’s proposed rule and instead adopt a rule under which nonstatutory home detention with a condition-of-release curfew is never sufficiently akin to penal incarceration to justify credit. Although the Court's rationale was different than that applied by the trial court, the result was the same. View "Vermont v. Byam" on Justia Law