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Idaho Appellate Defender: State’s Adult Misdemeanor Probation System “Void”

A memo authored by Sara B. Thomas, chief of the Idaho State Appellate Defender’s appellate unit, has concluded that the state’s adult misdemeanor probation system is unconstitutional, calling it “null, void and unenforceable.”

According to the August 15, 2011 memo, the legislative delegation of authority to the counties to supervise misdemeanor probationers violates Article X, Section 5 of the Idaho Constitution, as amended in 1942, which provides that a “state board of correction ... shall have the control, direction and management of ... adult probation and parole....” Felony probation cases are handled by the Department of Correction.

The memo calls into question the state’s delegation to each county of the obligation (and authority) to fund and administer adult misdemeanor probation cases.

Thirty-eight of Idaho’s 44 counties operate their own misdemeanor probation programs. Ada, Adams, Boise, Power and Gem counties contract with a private company to provide the services.

Ada County commissioners have expressed concern over the State Appellate Public Defender’s Office memo, with Commissioner Sharon Ullman saying, “I just hope we don’t have a lot of liability for all of the years that county commissioners all around the state have been running misdemeanor probation programs. I don’t think anyone wants this house of cards to come crashing down.”

Separately, a federal class-action lawsuit filed in October 2011 is challenging the private probation system in Ada County; the suit alleges that probationers are being charged higher fees than allowed by state law – including for drug testing and GPS monitoring – and are subjected to conditions that were not part of their court-imposed sentences.

The suit, filed by probationers Kenneth Green, Nicholas Hall and Nathaniel Smith against Ada County Misdemeanor Probation Services, Inc. (ACMPS), demonstrates some of the problems that arise when counties conduct their own misdemeanor probation services.
See: Green v. Ada County Misdemeanor Probation Services, Inc., District Court for the 4th Judicial District for the County of Ada (ID), Case No. CV 0C 1119162.

According to the Idaho Statesman, Commissioner Ullman expressed “grave concerns” over ACMPS’s treatment of both probationers and its own employees. “I personally believe there is cause to do an investigation,” she stated.

Sources: Idaho Statesman; Memorandum, “Constitutional Limits on County Supervision of Adults on Misdemeanor Probation,” State Appellate Public Defender (August 15, 2011)

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Related legal case

reen v. Ada County Misdemeanor Probation Services, Inc.