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Intimidation of Court Appointed Domestic Violence Counselor Leads to Revocation of Probation

In State of Vermont v. Scott Provost, 2014 VT 86A (July 17, 2015), the Supreme Court held that the Defendant’s probation was appropriately extended, and ultimately revoked, in light of his failure to complete a required domestic violence training program.

Issue: The Defendant was originally sentenced to twelve months’ probation, having plead guilty to second-degree aggravated domestic assault, resisting arrest and violating his conditions of release. As a condition of his probation he was required to complete a domestic violence training program. After approximately eight months the Defendant had not begun the required training program and had failed to attend two previously scheduled intake meetings. He was advised by his probation officer that if he failed to a complete a third scheduled intake meeting he would be cited for a probation violation. The Defendant appeared at the third scheduled meeting but his behavior was deemed so threatening and disruptive by the counselor that the intake session could not continue. Based on its finding that the Defendant’s belligerent behavior made it impossible to conduct the required domestic violence training, the trial court extended his probation. Defendant appealed and while that appeal was pending he was cited for multiple additional violations of his ongoing probation, which was ultimately revoked.

Holding: The Supreme Court found that the trial court did not err in holding that the Defendant’s failure to complete domestic violence training eight months into his original twelve month probation represented a violation of the terms of that probation. The Court found that the Defendant’s due process had not been violated because he was informed in advance by his probation officer that his failure to complete the intake session would be deemed a violation.

Dissent: J Robinson examined the absence of clarity in the text of the particular probation condition in question, which simply read “DV Solutions,” and argued that a long line of precedent required that the Court not “read unwritten terms into probation conditions.” Specifically, she argued that the text of the probation condition must have vested the probation officer with the authority to determine a reasonable time frame for the completion of the required training in order for a violation to have been found prior to the expiration of the original twelve month probation term.

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