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Supreme Court Affirms Simple Assault Conviction and Examines State Probation Conditions

In State v. Willy Levitt, 2016 VT 60 (May 27, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction, but remanded on one condition of his probation for the trial court to add standards to it.

Issue: Defendant was convicted of simple assault and placed on probation. On appeal, he argued that the trial court did not properly define reasonable doubt for the jury in its instruction, that his probation conditions were unlawfully imposed, that the court did not inform him of the content of the conditions at sentencing, and that the individual conditions were overbroad and vague.

Holding: The Court affirmed the conviction, finding that the jury instruction was not plain error, since the instructions were not misleading enough to be reversible error. The Court did note, though, that trial judges should be discouraged from trying to explain and define reasonable doubt. With regard to whether the probation conditions were standard, the Court declined to strike all of the conditions, as the Court had not examined the record with regard to each condition. With regard to four specific conditions, the Court found that only one, the condition requiring defendant to obtain written permission from his probation officer before leaving Vermont, should be reconsidered to allow the trial court to add standards to it. The Court found that the other three conditions specifically at issue were not problematic, as they are essentially standard probation conditions imposed almost universally.

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