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Puckett v. Fender

Supreme Court of Montana

September 5, 2017

KYLE PUCKETT, Petitioner,
v.
DOUGLAS FENDER, Respondent.

          ORDER

         Representing himself, Kyle Puckett petitions this Court seeking habeas corpus relief from his parole revocation by the Board of Pardons and Parole (Board). He contends that his due process rights have been violated and requests his immediate release from his alleged illegal incarceration.

         By way of background, in February 2014, the Flathead County District Court sentenced Puckett to the Department of Corrections (DOC) for an eight-year suspended term following the conviction of felony criminal possession of precursors to dangerous drugs. In October 2014, Puckett admitted to violating his suspended sentence's conditions in a hearing on the State's petition to revoke. The District Court revoked his suspended sentence and imposed an eight-year DOC commitment, with four years suspended. The court also referred him to the Missoula Assessment and Sanction Center (MASC). Following MASC, Puckett was sent to Montana State Prison (MSP).

         On July 5, 2016, Puckett received a furlough to Kalispell. Two days later, he was granted parole. Beginning in October 2016, Puckett accrued several violations of his parole conditions, including failing to report, failing to provide a residential address, failing to conform with laws and legal conduct, alleged illegal drug use, and absconding from supervision. The DOC Probation and Parole office held an intervention hearing on November 14, 2016. Puckett admitted several violations. In its report of violation, the DOC Probation and Parole listed several violations including new misdemeanor charges. Puckett was later arrested and sent to MSP to appear before the Board for a formal revocation hearing.

         Puckett maintains that his constitutional due process rights have been violated in this parole revocation process. He states that he did not have a lawyer appointed, and his liberties were deprived with "a right to counsel or [his] right to face a jury of [his] peers to be properly judged in a court of law." lie explains that his 2016 charges in Flathead County have since been dismissed, yet he has not had any further review by the Board.

         Parole revocation involves certain due process requirements. The United States Supreme Court has held that following arrest, a parolee has a right to an administrative on-site hearing at L'the state institution" to determine if reasonable grounds for revocation exist. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 485, 92 S.Ct. 2593, 2602 (1972). The United States Supreme Court listed these minimum requirements as:

(a) written notice of the claimed violations of parole; (b) disclosure to the parolee of evidence against him; (c) opportunity to be heard in person and to present witnesses and documentary evidence; (d) the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses (unless the hearing officer specifically finds good cause for not allowing confrontation); (e) a "neutral and detached" hearing body such as a traditional parole board, members of which need not be judicial officers or lawyers; and (f) a written statement by the factfinders as to the evidence relied on and reasons for revoking parole.

Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 489, 92 S.Ct. at 2604. The high court specifically stated that parole revocation "is a narrow inquiry; the process should be flexible enough . . . ." Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 489, 92 S.Ct. at 2604. The Supreme Court emphasized that a parole revocation does not equate to a criminal prosecution. Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 489, 92S.Ct. at 2604.

         The Morrissey Court also pointed to various States, including Montana, which have addressed revocation of parole by legislation. Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 489, 92 S.Ct. at 2604. Montana's statutory scheme has changed since this 1972 case. Nevertheless, the statutes for supervision of probationers and parolees are located in § 46-23-1001 through -1032, MCA. The parole revocation process may be found in both statutes and administrative rules. Sections 46-23-1021, -1023, -1025, MCA; Admin. R. M. 20.25.801 (2016). As stated above, this "narrow inquiry" does not occur in a court of law, but before a '"neutral and detached' hearing body such as a traditional parole board[.]" Morrissey, 408 U.S. at 489, 92 S.Ct. at 2604; see also § 46-23-lO25(1)-(2), MCA.

         The documents accompanying Puckett's petition establish that his due process rights were not violated. Puckett was given all of the process that he was due prior to his parole being formally revoked. Puckett received written notice of his violations at his November 14, 2016 informal, intervention hearing, pursuant to § 46-23-1023(2), MCA. In its report of violation, the DOC found probable cause to recommend a warrant for Puckett's arrest and to be brought before the Board. The Board, and not Puckett's parole officer, held an on-site parole revocation hearing at MSP on February 22, 2017. Puckett appeared in person, was allowed to speak, and to present evidence. Puckett received a written decision explaining the denial, known as a case disposition. In its Case Disposition, the Board denied parole and passed to discharge his term because of the nature of Puckett's violations and his poor history under supervision. The Board commented that "if all pending charges are dismissed request a return[.]" In the Board's subsequent May 31, 2017 correspondence, the Board reminded Puckett that he received a copy of the violations, that he acknowledged his familiarity with the violations, that he voluntarily waived his right to hire an attorney at his own expense, and that he may reappear if the charges are dismissed.

         Puckett's present remedy is with the Board. He includes a copy of a January 10, 2017 Order dismissing his charges in the Columbia Falls City Court. As the Board allowed and as Puckett acknowledges in his petition, he is scheduled to appear before the Board in October 2017. Admin. R. M. 20.25.801(16) (2016).

         We have recognized the Board's broad authority and its discretion to decide an inmate's parole. McDermott v. McDonald, 2001 MT 89, ¶ 25, 305 Mont. 166, 24 P.3d 200. Puckett's attached documents verify his parole violations, substantiate the parole revocation process, and justify his return to incarceration. We conclude that Puckett's due process rights were not violated and that the Board acted within its statutory authority in revoking Puckett's parole. Puckett has not demonstrated an illegal incarceration. Section 46-22-101(1), MCA. Therefore, IT IS ORDERED that the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is DENIED.

         The Clerk is directed to provide a copy of this Order to counsel of ...


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