Jones v. Chaundrasuwan, No. 15-1110(4th Cir, 4/28/2016)
Stanley Jones was a probationer who was put on probation in North Carolina and transferred to Georgia for supervision under the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision. When this happens, the sending state is responsible for collection of any amounts due and for prosecuting any violations.
Mr. Jones failed to make payments and his North Carolina probation officers made two attempts to contact him (but never bothered to contact his probation officer in Georgia) and then issued an order for arrest for non-payment and absconding probation. He was arrested in Georgia and lost his job. He paid all amounts due and was released. The subsequently sued the probation officers individually under 42 USC 1983 and malicious prosecution.
Under 1983, the Plaintiff may recover for violations of his constitutional rights unless the defendants have qualified immunity. That is, that the Defendants cannot violate a clearly established right.
Unfortunately for Mr. Jones, the right of a probationer not to be arrested without reasonable suspicion has never been established. Until now.
The Court held
1) Probation officers must have reasonable suspicion before seeking the arrest of a probationer for allegedly violating conditions of his probation.
2) Reasonable suspicion in the arrest context is present when there is a sufficiently high probability that a probationer has violated the terms of his probation to make the intrusion on the individual’s privacy interest reasonable.
3) A payment plan is a condition of probation that must be provided to a probationer in writing and, under North Carolina Law, if a payment plan is not provided to the probationer in writing, it is unenforceable. No payment plan was provided in this case.
4) Prior to alleging absconding, a probation officer must at least attempt to contact the agency actually supervising the probationer.
5) In this case, the Defendants did not have reasonable suspicion before seeking the arrest of a probationer for allegedly violating conditions of his probation.
6) This was not a clearly established right at the time the probation officers sought Jones’s arrest.
7) The probation officers have qualified immunity.
8) The defendant can’t get any of that sweet sweet cash from the probation officers.
The big takeaway here (for me, at least) is not the main holding but that a payment plan must be in writing to be enforceable. This was news to me. It would follow that probationers that didn’t pay can hold the division to the requirement that they provide a copy of the payment plan during a violation hearing.
(Also, for fun, I checked for Stanley here, which is a list of NC teachers with revoked licenses. There is a shocking number of revocations for inappropriate teacher student relationships. Say what you will about lawyers, but our bad ones steal money, bad teachers steal innocence.)