Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.
Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court
Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
State of Tennessee v. Gibbs, No. M2021-00933-CCA-R3-CD, p. 5 – 9 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 14, 2022).
The decision to revoke a community corrections sentence rests within the sound discretion of the trial court. State v. Harkins, 811 S.W.2d 79, 82 (Tenn. 1991). Due to “the similar nature of a community corrections sentence and a sentence of probation,” the procedures and principles of probation revocation apply equally to the revocation of a community corrections sentence. Id. at 82-83 (citing T.C.A. § 40-35-311). Recently, in State v. Dagnan, the supreme court held that a trial court’s probation revocation decision is reviewed for an abuse of discretion with a presumption of reasonableness “so long as the trial court places sufficient findings and the reasons for its decision as to the revocation and the consequence on the record.” No. M2020-00152-SC-R11-CD, – S.W.3d –, 2022 WL 627247, at *6 (Tenn. Mar. 4, 2022). The supreme court also clarified that probation revocation is a “two-step consideration” that requires a separate exercise of discretion. Id. at *5 (citing T.C.A. §§ 40-35-308, -210, -311). When faced with an established violation, the trial court must 1) determine whether to revoke probation; and 2) determine the appropriate consequence for a revocation. Id.
We find Dagnan applicable to our review of the trial court’s decision to revoke Defendant’s community corrections sentence. “Community corrections revocation proceedings present two major issues: first, whether the terms of the community corrections sentence have been violated, and second, what sentence should be imposed if a revocation is warranted.” Carpenter v. State, 136 S.W.3d 608, 612 (Tenn. 2004).
In light of Dagnan and Harkin (sic) , we will review and address the trial court’s revocation decision in this case to determine 1) whether the revocation was proper, and 2) whether confinement was a proper consequence for revocation.
Generally, discretion is abused when the trial court “applies incorrect legal standards, reaches an illogical conclusion, bases its ruling on a clearly erroneous assessment of the proof, or applies reasoning that causes an injustice to the complaining party.” Dagnan, 2022 WL 627247, at *5 (quoting State v. Phelps, 329 S.W.436, 443 (Tenn. 2010)). A reviewing court may presume the trial court’s revocation decision is reasonable “so long as the trial court places sufficient findings and the reasons for its decision as to the revocation and the consequence on the record.” Dagnan, 2022 WL 627247, at *5. For the presumption to apply, the trial court’s findings do not need to be “particularly lengthy or detailed.” Id. It only needs to be sufficient for this court to conduct “a meaningful review of the revocation decision.” Id. (citing State v. Bise, 380 S.W.705- 06 (Tenn. 2012)). This court relies on the trial court’s findings for its credibility determinations. “[T]he lower court is the proper entity to make appropriate factual findings regarding the believability and reliability of the witnesses’ testimony, and ultimately, to rule upon the defendant’s bid for further probation.” Dagnan, 2022 WL 627247, at *6 (quoting State v. Jess R. Amonette, No. M2001-02952-CCA-R3-CD, 2002 WL 1987956, at *4 (Tenn. Crim. App., Aug. 29, 2002)); State v. Farrar, 355 S.W.3d 582, 585 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2011). In cases where the trial court failed to state its reasoning for a revocation decision on the record, this court may review the decision de novo if the record is sufficiently developed, or we may remand the case to the trial court to make findings. Dagnan, 2022 WL 627247, at *6 (citing State v. King, 432 S.W.3d 316, 327-28 (Tenn. 2014)).
A trial court may revoke a defendant’s community corrections sentence based on the defendant’s failure to comply with the conditions of the community corrections program. T.C.A. § 40-36-106(e)(3)-(4). Proof of a violation must be established by preponderance of the evidence. Id. § 40-30-35-311(e) (May 2021). 1 In revocation cases, the trial court abuses its discretion when the “record contains no substantial evidence to support the conclusion of the trial judge that a violation . . . has occurred.” State v. Delp, 614 S.W.2d 395, 398 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1980); see State v. Shaffer, 45 S.W.3d 553, 554 (Tenn. 2001). “The evidence need only show the trial judge has exercised conscientious judgment in making the decision rather than acting arbitrarily.” Stamps v. State, 614 S.W.2d 71, 73 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1980)). It is well-established that a defendant’s admission of a violation constitutes substantial evidence to support revocation. State v. Ross Pruitt, No. E2015-01494-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 3342356, at *4 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 8, 2016); State v. Ashley Kelso, No. M2016-00661-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 5864623, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 7, 2016). Moreover, this court has held that “[o]nly one basis for revocation is necessary.” State v. Joe Allen Brown, No. W2007-00693-CCA-R3-CD, 2007 WL 4432990, at *4 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 20, 2007) (quoting State v. Alonzo Chatman, E2000-03123-CCA-R3-CD, 2001 WL 1173895, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 5, 2001)). (Footnote omitted)