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Court of Appeals reverses Kandiyohi County District Court decision in probation violation

Due first to the defendant's illness, and subsquently to the COVID-19 pandemic, a probation violation hearing for a defendant in Kandiyohi County was delayed until after her probation time had ended. The Court of Appeals ruled the district court could not revoke the original adjudication provided the defendant after the probation ended.

WCT.Stock.Gavel
Gavel. Shutterstock.com

WILLMAR — A Kandiyohi County defendant who was belatedly found to have violated the terms of her probation after it ended cannot be penalized for the violation.

During a revocation hearing Nov. 2, 2020, in Kandiyohi County District Court , Sarah Jean Solien, 41, of Willmar, was found to have violated the terms of her five-year probation. The hearing was held almost five months after her probation period had ended on June 10, 2020. The revocation hearing had originally been scheduled for February 2020, but was postponed twice: The first time because she was ill, and the second time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, the Court of Appeals agreed with the defendant in a decision on Monday that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to impose the penalty it issued at the belated hearing.

The Court reversed the District Court ruling, which had been to revoke a deferral of adjudication and extend her probation period until June 10, 2021.

In its findings, the Court of Appeals noted that the state statute at issue allows the District Court to hold a hearing on a violation for a stayed sentence if the accusation was raised during the probation period and the hearing is held within six months of its completion. These timelines were met in Solien’s case, but her original sentence was adjudicated, not stayed. The statue makes no reference to cases where a sentence was adjudicated rather than stayed.

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Solien had pleaded guilty to fifth-degree drug possession in May 2015. In a sentencing held one month later, the District Court exercised its discretion to withhold entering a judgment of conviction for her as a first-time drug offender and placed her on probation.

In her appeal, the defendant argued that the expiration of her sentence operates as a discharge and deprives the court of jurisdiction to modify that sentence, the Court of Appeals noted.

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