People sentenced to supervised release in federal cases must comply with the terms of their release; otherwise, their release may be revoked. As demonstrated in a recent opinion issued in a Florida case, the state’s burden of proof in revocation hearings is lower than in criminal trials, and the federal rules of evidence regarding hearsay do not necessarily apply. If you are accused of violating the terms of your probation, it is smart to consult a Sarasota probation violation defense attorney about your options.
History of the Case
It is reported that the lower court revoked the defendant’s supervised release after determining that he violated the conditions of his release by committing the offense of simple battery. During the hearing, the government introduced evidence in the form of a text message exchanged between the victim and her 16-year-old daughter via the testimony of M.M.’s mother, Reyna Morales. The defendant objected to the admission of the text message, asserting that it violated his right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses. The court overruled his rejection. After his supervised release was revoked, he appealed.
Grounds for Revoking Supervised Release
On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court violated his due process rights by admitting a text message containing hearsay at his revocation hearing. The court disagreed, affirming the lower court ruling. The court explained that supervised release could be revoked if the district court found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant violated a condition of supervised release. The court noted that the preponderance of the evidence standard requires the trier of fact to believe that the existence of a fact was more probable than its nonexistence.
Regarding the admissibility of hearsay, the court explained that while the Federal Rules of Evidence did not apply directly to supervised release revocation hearings, the admissibility of hearsay was not automatic. A defendant was entitled to minimal due process requirements, including the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses. The court outlined the balancing test the district court must have conducted, weighing the defendant’s right to confront adverse witnesses against the government’s grounds for denying confrontation, and emphasized the need for the district court to determine the reliability of the statement.
The court ultimately found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the text message, as it conducted the required analysis. The court highlighted the district court’s balancing of the defendant’s right to confront adverse witnesses against the government’s argument that bringing the 16-year-old who received the text messages into court might be undesirable, especially considering domestic violence victims’ hesitancy to testify.
Further, the court noted that the defendant was given the opportunity to conduct voir dire of the witness, indicating the required analysis. The court also pointed out that the lower court spoke with the government and the witness who testified regarding the text message to gather information about the text message’s origin and the absence of certain witnesses. As such, the court concluded that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the text message and did not violate the defendant’s due process rights. Consequently, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to revoke the defendant’s supervised release.
Meet with a Dedicated Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney
People who violate the terms of their supervised release may be sentenced to serve time in prison, and the government’s burden of proof in revocation hearings is lower than in criminal cases. If you are accused of a probation violation, it is wise to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The dedicated Sarasota probation violation defense lawyers of Hanlon Law possess the skills and experience needed to help you seek a just outcome. You can reach Hanlon Law by calling 941-462-1789 or using the form online to arrange a meeting.