State v. Rucker, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (May. 5, 2020)

(1) The defendant was convicted of drug offenses in Gaston County on July 5, 2017 and was sentenced to 24 months of supervised probation. After reporting for his intake visit with a Gaston County probation officer, the defendant avoided probation officers for several months. Probation officers attempted on six separate occasions to verify defendant’s residence at the address he provided. He was not present for any of these visits. On two of the visits, individuals who knew the defendant told the officers that the defendant no longer lived at the residence or that he planned to move from the residence.

Despite being on notice to maintain regular contact with probation officers, no probation officer met with the defendant in person following his initial intake visit before the first violation report alleging absconding was filed on September 14, 2017. On the few occasions that a probation officer could reach the defendant by phone, the officer notified the defendant that a home visit was scheduled. The defendant was absent from the home on those occasions and failed to apprise his probation officer of his whereabouts.

Even after the defendant was released from custody after being arrested for alleged probation violations relating to absconding, he failed to report to his probation officer within 24 hours as instructed. After defendant’s case was transferred from Gaston County to Lincoln County in March 2018, officers continued to have difficulty contacting him. And he failed to notify officers upon getting evicted from his listed residence.

An addendum was filed to the defendant’s probation violation report on May 31, 2018 alleging an additional incident of absconding. The trial court found that the defendant violated his probation by absconding and ordered his probation revoked. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in revoking his probation based on its finding that he willfully absconded from supervision.

The Court of Appeals found the State’s allegations and supporting evidence––reflecting defendant’s continuous, willful pattern of avoiding supervision and making his whereabouts unknown––sufficient to support the trial court’s exercise of discretion in revoking defendant’s probation for absconding.

(2) The trial court checked the box on the judgment form stating that the defendant waived a violation hearing and admitted the violations. This was inaccurate, as the record reflects that the defendant was present for his probation hearing and testified as a witness. The Court of Appeals determined that the trial court committed a clerical error when it checked the box indicating otherwise and remanded the case to allow the trial court to correct the error.