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Supreme Court Affirms Order Revoking Probation

In State v. Thomas Gauthier, 2016 VT 37 (March 25, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order revoking defendant’s probation.

Issue: On appeal, defendant argued that the probation conditions were not enforceable because he had not been explicitly informed as to what the conditions applicable to him were and that several conditions specifically were contradictory or vague and unenforceable.

Holding: The Supreme Court affirmed the order revoking defendant’s probation, finding that while there might have been error, there was not plain error. The Court noted that defendant was given a probation order with all of the conditions he was subject to, that defendant was fully aware of the conditions, and that the error did not “seriously affect ‘the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings,’” especially since the remedy would have an adverse effect on the reputation of the judiciary. The Court also found that two conditions regarding alcohol, while seemingly contradictory, were nevertheless enforceable because defendant could meet the requirements of both by adhering to the stricter of the two. Finally, the Court found that the condition prohibiting defendant from going to places where children congregate was not overly vague, since the list of places in the condition was meant to be illustrative, not conclusive.

Concurrence in Part, Dissent in Part: Justice Robinson concurred in part (with regard to affirming the trial court’s decision on narrow plain-error grounds) and dissented in part (with regard to the alcohol-related conditions). Justice Robinson argued that the inconsistent alcohol-related conditions should have been resolved in favor of the defendant under the rule of lenity, but that the error was not plain error, based on the record, and concurred in the judgment affirming the violation of the no alcohol condition.

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