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Spinney v. State

Supreme Court of Maine

January 17, 2017


          Argued: December 13, 2016

          R. Christopher Almy, District Attorney, and Susan J. Pope, Asst. Dist. Atty. (orally), Prosecutorial District V, Bangor, for appellant State of Maine.

          Matthew S. Erickson, Esq. (orally), Brewer, for appellee Jonathan M. Spinney Jr.


          GORMAN, J.

         [¶1] The State of Maine appeals from a judgment of the Superior Court (Penobscot County, Anderson, /.) granting Jonathan M. Spinney Jr.'s petition for post-conviction review of his expulsion from Adult Drug Treatment Court ("drug court") and the resultant revocation of his probation. The court concluded that, because the drug court termination hearing was in part a bail revocation hearing, it had authority to grant Spinney's request for post-conviction review and that the drug court termination hearing had not afforded Spinney due process. We vacate the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] On June 4, 2007, Jonathan Spinney pleaded guilty to one count of robbery (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 651(1)(C) (2006), in the Superior Court (Penobscot County), for which the court [Brodrick, J.) sentenced him to ten years in prison with all but five years suspended and three years of probation. Between July of 2011 and May of 2012, the State filed three motions to revoke Spinney's probation. He admitted to all three violations, but the court [A. Murray, J.) issued no sanctions for the first violation and, on July 17, 2012, the court [Anderson, J.) ordered that the decision on what sanctions would be imposed for the second and third would be continued generally. On September 11, 2012, the State filed its fourth motion alleging that Spinney had violated probation, this time by committing a theft and violating bail. That matter-and, apparently, the sanction hearing for the two other pending violations-was set for hearing in October of 2012. The record does not indicate what occurred in October but, on December 12, 2012, Spinney's case was transferred to Hancock County. There, he entered an admission to the September 11, 2012, motion alleging that he had violated the conditions of his probation, and the court [Cuddy, J.) enrolled him in drug court-a program within the criminal court system "in which heightened judicial attention is given to defendants" whose criminal actions are driven by their abuse of substances. State v.Jakubowski, 2003 ME 58, ¶ 1, 822 A.2d 1193.

         [¶3] As a condition of his participation in drug court, Spinney agreed to the imposition of alternate sentences based upon his performance in the program, referred to as "good" and "bad" sentences: if he successfully completed drug court, he would receive the "good" sentence-no further sanctions and his probation would continue; if he did not successfully complete drug court, he would receive the "bad" sentence-a full revocation of his probation resulting in Spinney serving the remaining five years of his suspended robbery sentence. A mere sixteen days after he entered the program, Spinney failed to appear at drug court and, once again, violated the conditions of his probation by committing a new criminal offense-eluding an officer (Class C), 29-AM.R.S. §2414(3) (2011)-by leading police on a high-speed chase through downtown Bangor. Spinney was jailed soon after the chase and, while incarcerated, sent a letter to the "drug court team"[1]admitting that he had used bath salts and that he had "[left] the county, "[2] but asking for yet another chance to "[change his] life."

         [¶4] On January 18, 2013, the court held a hearing to determine whether to expel Spinney from the drug court program. At the start of that hearing, after consulting with his attorney, Spinney admitted that he had violated the drug court contract. The court heard from Spinney, his parents, his counsel, and a representative from the District Attorney's office. After conferring with the drug court team behind closed doors during the hearing, the court expelled Spinney from the program and announced that it would impose a full revocation of his probation-the "bad sentence" that Spinney had agreed to upon entering drug court. Spinney did not object to any of the procedure at the hearing. That same day, the court revoked Spinney's probation and imposed a sentence of five years, the balance of the previously suspended portion of the sentence imposed in 2007 for his robbery conviction. Spinney did not appeal from the revocation of his probation.

         [¶5] On December 30, 2013, Spinney filed a petition for post-conviction review in the Superior Court (Penobscot County). In his petition, he argued that his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection had been violated at the drug court termination hearing. He specifically alleged that he had been denied an impartial hearing, the opportunity to present evidence, and the opportunity to confront witnesses against him. The State thereafter moved to dismiss Spinney's petition based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 15 M.R.S. §§ 2121, 2124 (2013), [3] contending that the statute expressly barred post-conviction review of a probation revocation, the basis for Spinney's petition.

         [¶6] By order dated February 13, 2015, the court [Anderson, J.) denied the State's motion to dismiss Spinney's petition based on its conclusions that the drug court termination hearing had in fact addressed both the revocation of Spinney's post-conviction bail and the revocation of his probation, and that Spinney's failure to appeal those decisions was excusable. More than two years after Spinney had filed his petition, by judgment dated March 15, 2016, the court granted Spinney's petition for post-conviction review, concluding that the procedure employed in the drug court termination hearing had not met due process requirements. The State appealed.


         [¶7] The State argues that the court erred in considering Spinney's petition for post-conviction review because the court lacked jurisdiction to do so. Spinney responds that the court must have authority to consider his petition in the interest of justice because he would otherwise have no ...

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