State v. Daniels, COA22-756, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Sept. 12, 2023)

In this Pitt County case, defendant appealed the revocation of her probation, arguing the trial court improperly considered all of defendant’s probation violations as bases to revoke her probation in violation of G.S. 15A-1344(a). The Court of Appeals found that the trial court committed error in one of its findings, but affirmed the revocation of defendant’s probation. 

In June of 2021, while defendant was on probation for a driving while intoxicated offense, the probation officer filed a violation report with the trial court identifying (1) positive drug screens for marijuana, (2) failure to pay court costs, and (3) commission of a new criminal offense. At the revocation hearing, defendant admitted to the violations and requested confinement in response to a violation (CRV) rather than revocation. The trial court declined this request and revoked her probation due to willful and intentional violations. When filling out form AOC-CR-343 after the judgment, the trial court checked box 4, which represented a finding that “each violation is, in and of itself, a sufficient basis upon which [the trial court] should revoke probation and activate the suspended sentence.” Slip Op. at 4.  

Reviewing defendant’s argument, the Court of Appeals first explained that G.S. 15A-1344(a) only permitted revocation of defendant’s probation after the new criminal offense, not the other two violations in the report. To revoke defendant’s probation under this provision, the trial court was required to exercise discretion in determining that there was a willful violation of the terms of probation when defendant committed the new criminal offense. Here the trial court made just such a finding by checking box 5(a) on form AOC-CR-343. The court determined that checking box 4 was error, but that “[the trial court] properly considered and understood the statutory basis for revoking Defendant’s probation and properly exercised its discretion.” Slip Op. at 8. As a result, the court reversed the finding represented by checking box 4, but affirmed the judgment revoking probation.