The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today reversed and remanded the probation revocation of Tami Hinkle, who had pled guilty to theft back in 2009. Hinkle was found in violation of her probation for being arrested on new theft charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison on April 3, 2014 by Madison County Circuit Judge James P. Smith.
Richard Jensen, Hinkle's defense attorney, argued during the April hearing that the probation revocation hearing was improper, that Hinkle had a right to a two-part hearing process required by Alabama law and by the United States Supreme Court rulings in Morrissey v. Brewer and Gagnon v. Scarpelli, two cases from the early 1970s which require a probationer to be arraigned and then given a full separate hearing. The initial hearing is supposed to be a formal notification of the charge and then a separate trial on the merits is held later.
Jensen objected at the April hearing and told the trial judge that Alabama law required two separate hearings. Jensen told Smith he'd never formally informed Hinkle of the charges. Smith overruled Jensen's objections, saying, "All right. We do this pretty informally in this county. Everybody who handles these knows that once a -- if you file an appearance in a delinquency case, the report is in the file. There's not like any magic. You don't have to file magic motions to get a copy of the delinquency report. You can just go to the file and get it."
The appeals court agreed with Jensen's argument on behalf of Hinkle and reversed Smith's revocation of Hinkle's probation and remanded the case back for a two-step revocation process.
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