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Oregon Trial Court Abused Discretion in Revoking Probation Without Violation

by Mark Wilson

The Oregon Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s order revoking a criminal defendant’s probation, finding that the trial court abused its discretion.

Amanda DeeAnne Cooper pleaded guilty to four Oregon felonies and was sentenced to five years’ probation. The conditions of probation required her to participate in substance abuse treatment, live in clean and sober housing, and not change her address without her probation officer’s permission.

The clean and sober housing facility rules required Cooper to obtain permission to have a visitor stay overnight. She violated that rule by having her daughter stay overnight without first seeking permission.

When Cooper’s recovery mentor reminded her of the house rules, she became upset that her housemates had “snitched.” This led to a “heated” discussion between Cooper and her housemates, but she did not threaten anyone.

Nevertheless, her recovery mentor put her on a 30-day behavioral plan that required her to speak “nicely” to her housemates, refrain from intimidating anyone and follow house rules. Cooper apologized to her housemates during a house meeting and complied with her behavior plan.

Cooper’s probation officer learned of the incident leading to the behavior plan and spoke to her about it. Without talking to her recovery mentor or housemates, he concluded that Cooper was not taking “accountability for her behavior” and she did not see how her outburst had affected her housemates. He was unaware that she had apologized.

Cooper continued to have her daughter stay at the house without permission, in violation of house rules. As a result, her recovery mentor asked her to find another clean and sober housing facility that would provide more structure, but she was not evicted or given a deadline to find another facility. Cooper applied to another facility but was denied because the manager believed she was “not accountable” for her actions.

Cooper was then arrested for violating her probation conditions requiring her to reside in clean and sober housing and prohibiting her from changing her address without her probation officer’s permission. However, at the time of her arrest, Cooper still resided at the home and had not been evicted.

The trial court found that Cooper violated the probation condition requiring her to reside in clean and sober housing. Based on that violation, the court found that the purposes of probation were no longer being met. The court revoked Cooper’s probation and sentenced her to a 44-month prison term, finding that he was not exhibiting accountability because she does not “follow direction” and does whatever she wants.

The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that “the state concedes, and we agree, that the record does not show that defendant violated the condition that she remain in clean and sober housing.”

The court also agreed with Cooper “that the court’s determination that the purposes of probation were not being met was based on its erroneous conclusion that defendant had violated the condition. Beyond that, the record reads as though the court is evaluating defendant’s general character and worthiness.” Accordingly, “the court abused its discretion in revoking defendant’s probation” because “Defendant’s general character and worthiness does not provide” a basis for revoking probation. See: State v. Cooper, 298 Or App 445, _ P3d _ (Or App 2019).

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Related legal case

State v. Cooper