Saturday, February 28, 2009
'Cos I'm A Good Boy I'm On Parole: Oklahoma Appeal Reveals That Rules Of Evidence Don't (Strictly) Apply At Parole Revocation Hearings
Recently, I wrote a post about how veterans affairs courts are not bound by the Federal Rules of Evidence but still frequently look to them for guidance. Well, the same applies to courts holding probation revocation hearings as is made clear by the recent opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma in Hampton v. State, 2009 WL 432843 (Okla.Crim.App. 2009).
In Hampton, the State filed an Application to Revoke Suspended Sentence for Jerry Lynn Hampton. The Application alleged that Hampton had violated the conditions of his probation by having committed the offenses of Attempted Manufacture of a Controlled Dangerous Substance; Unlawful Cultivation of Marijuana; and Unlawful Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substance.
At the evidentiary hearing on that application, the State presented significant evidence that Hampton had violated the conditions of his probation, such as hearsay evidence concerning his
alleged purchase of a large quantity of matches from a local convenience store. While conducting the investigation that led up to his obtaining the search warrant, the agent was told by store personnel "that a guy by the name of Slick (apparently Hampton's nickname) has been coming in with Roger Payne purchasing matches...." [Hampton] objected to this statement as hearsay. [Hampton] further argued that if the trial court were to consider this hearsay statement, it would deprive [Hampton] of his right of confrontation.
After the Oklahoma trial court granted the State's application, Hampton appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma noted that like Federal Rule of Evidence 1101(d)(3), Oklahoma's counterpart states that the rules of evidence do not apply to proceedings for revoking probation. But as noted above, this does not mean that those rules are irrelevant. Instead, in dicta, the court declared:
Today we also hold that an out-of-court statement will presumptively satisfy the confrontation rights of a probationer when that statement is one that would normally be admissible under an established exception to the rules against hearsay. While the rules of evidence in Oklahoma (as well as those rules of evidence found in the federal system and many other jurisdictions), contain provisions declaring such rules inapplicable to probation revocation proceedings, courts in such jurisdictions have found that an out-of-court statement satisfies the due process confrontation requirement when that out-of-court statement is one falling under a long-standing exception to the rules against hearsay.
So, why was this declaration in dicta? Well, the State in Hampton did "not contend that the out-of-court statement at issue f[ell] under such an exception." Nonetheless, the court still affirmed, finding that Hampton had "not demonstrated that the District Court's partial reliance on that out-of-court statement in his particular case ultimately resulted in an unfair revocation proceeding."