Michigan Court Explains the Burden of Proof in Probation Revocation Hearings

It is generally understood that the prosecution must establish a criminal defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. In determining whether a person violated the terms of supervised release, however, the prosecution faces a lesser burden of proof. In a recent ruling, a Michigan court discussed what evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that supervised release should be revoked due to a violation in a case in which the defendant appealed the trial court’s ruling. If you are accused of violating the conditions of your supervised release, it is in your best interest to speak to a Michigan criminal defense attorney about your options.

The Alleged Violations

It is alleged that the defendant pleaded guilty to numerous crimes in 2015, for which he was sentenced to sixty months in prison, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. He was released from prison in May 2019, and his term of supervised release began. In December 2019, a probation officer filed a petition for revocation of the defendant’s supervised release, alleging he committed six different violations, one of which was an assault. He was then charged with robbery and weapons crimes, which prompted the probation officer to amend the petition to include a seventh violation arising out of those offenses.

It is reported that the court held a two-day hearing, during which the court relied in part on the testimony of eyewitnesses who identified the defendant at the scene of the crime and in court to establish the defendant’s violation. The court granted the petition, and the defendant appealed.

Proving a Violation of Terms of Supervised Release

On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the prosecution’s witnesses were unreliable, and the court erred by evaluating them in determining whether the prosecution met its burden. The court disagreed. First, the court noted that generally, the exclusionary rule barring evidence of on-scene identification does not apply to supervised release hearings.

The court noted that a term of supervised release might be revoked if the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant violated a condition of the release. In determining whether evidence meets that standard, courts may consider the totality of the evidence presented, including circumstantial evidence, inferences, and hearsay that is proven to be reliable. In the subject case, the court explained that even if the on-scene and in court identifications were discounted, the remainder of the evidence was sufficient to meet the prosecution’s burden of proof. As such, it affirmed the lower court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer

Although the prosecution faces a different burden of proof in supervised release revocation hearings, it nonetheless must establish that a violation occurred.  If you are charged with violating the terms of your supervised release, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney with the knowledge and skills needed to help you seek a successful outcome, and he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Bernstein via the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.


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