State v. Crompton, 380 N.C. 220, 2022-NCSC-14 (Feb. 11, 2022)

In this probation revocation case from Buncombe County, the defendant failed to contact his probation officer for nearly three months until his arrest. After more than month of not being able to contact the defendant, the probation officer filed a violation report accusing him of absconding and other violations. The absconding violation alleged that the defendant failed to report to the probation office, failed to return his probation officer’s calls, failed to provide his current address, failed to make himself available for supervision, and noted that the last in-person contact with the defendant was more than a month ago. The defendant represented himself at hearing, admitted the violations, and was revoked. At the Court of Appeals, a divided panel affirmed the revocation (summarized here). A dissenting judge there would have held that the violation report did not sufficiently plead absconding and that the State’s evidence was insufficient to establish willful absconding. The defendant appealed based on the dissent, and the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed.

The Court found that the defendant had adequate notice that he was accused of absconding probation. The allegation of violation need only describe the defendant’s conduct in violating probation and need not state the condition of probation violated by the conduct. The allegations here described the defendant’s conduct with appropriate specificity. That the conduct described in the absconding violation also violated regular, non-revocable conditions of probation did not render the allegation improper—an argument the Court called “meritless.” Crompton Slip op. at 12. The defendant’s admission to absconding at the hearing and argument to the trial judge to run his suspended sentences concurrent further demonstrated that the defendant had effective notice of the allegations. In the words of the Court:

[The] defendant here was sufficiently and properly informed by the probation violation reports of his alleged violations and his alleged conduct which constituted the alleged violations, including the alleged absconding behavior which defendant admitted. Id. at 13.

The trial court therefore did not abuse its discretion in revoking the defendant’s probation.

Justice Earls dissented. She would have found that the violation report only alleged violations of regular, non-revocable conditions of probation and that the defendant only admitted to as much.