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Ransom v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Divisions I, IV

December 4, 2019

STANLEY VANOY RANSOM APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NOS. 23CR-11-473 & 23CR-11-1001] HONORABLE CHARLES E. CLAWSON, JR., JUDGE

          Ryan C. Allen, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Adam Jackson, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge

         In 2012, Ransom was found guilty in two separate cases and placed on probation in each one of them. The Faulkner County Circuit Court sentenced Ransom to eighty-four months' probation for robbery, seventy-two months' probation for second-degree battery, twelve months' probation for domestic battery third, and twelve months' probation for resisting arrest in case number 473. In case number 1001, the court sentenced Ransom to eighty-four months' probation for failing to appear.

         Fast forward to 2015 when the State filed petitions to revoke Ransom's probation. After hearings on the petitions, the court found that Ransom had violated the terms imposed in each of the two cases that were originally adjudicated in 2012. The court's decisions were reduced to one written judgment, which was entered on 23 March 2015. The March judgment, which we have reproduced as an addendum to this opinion, is straightforward. It has two checkmarks. Next to the first checkmark the judgment reads, "[T]he Defendant has violated the terms and conditions of his probation." Next to the second check mark is this statement: "The Defendant shall serve 30 days in the Faulkner County Detention Center, with a credit for 41 days spent in custody awaiting disposition of this matter." The rest of the form boxes or spaces are unchecked. Ransom did not appeal the March 2015 judgment.

         In August 2015, the State filed a petition to revoke Ransom's probation in case number 473, which the State later amended in September 2015 to include case number 1001. In December 2015, the circuit court entered a judgment for the State on those petitions. Ransom did not appeal.

         In July 2016, the State again filed a petition to revoke and then amended it in case number 473. In October 2016, the circuit court entered a judgment in case numbers 473 and 1001. Ransom did not appeal.

         In 2017, the State filed two more petitions to revoke. The two petitions were decided together by the circuit court in November 2018. The court revoked Ransom's probation in both cases. In case number 473, the court sentenced him to an aggregate term of fifteen years in the Arkansas Department of Correction. In case number 1001, the court sentenced Ransom to ten years' imprisonment. These dispositions are reflected in two separate judgments entered on 20 November 2018 (no. 473) and 3 December 2018 (no. 1001).

         A few days after the December 3 judgment had been entered, Ransom filed posttrial motions and asked the court to set aside the November and December 2018 judgments. He argued that the court had no jurisdiction to revoke his probation because he was not on probation. This in turn meant the November 2018 and December 2018 judgments must be vacated. The posttrial motions were deemed denied by operation of law when the court did not rule on them within thirty days after they were filed. Ark. R. Crim. P. 33.3(c) (2019). Ransom timely appealed the two 2018 judgments; he did not appeal the deemed denial of his posttrial motions.

         In this court, Ransom argues that the circuit court's 23 March 2015 judgment sentenced him to thirty days in jail but did not extend his probation period. Consequently, he was not on probation when the State filed any petition to revoke after he had served the sentence imposed by the March 2015 judgment. Because he was not on probation when the court purported to revoke any probation period after the March 2015 judgment was entered, Ransom says that the now appealed 2018 judgments, for which he is currently serving sentences, must be vacated.

         The State contends, and our dissenting colleague agrees, that the unchecked boxes in the March 2015 judgment were scrivener's errors-meaning inadvertent errors by omission-because the transcript from the 23 March 2015 revocation hearing shows that the court intended to continue Ransom's probation, and Ransom himself understood that he was on probation. Therefore, there is no material problem dating from March 2015 going forward.

         We first observe that the State has not argued that Ransom purged any error in the 23 March 2015 judgment because he acted as if he were on probation and allowed the State to "revoke" his probation multiple times, unchallenged, until the 2018 judgments were entered. In our view, such an argument is foreclosed by current case law-which may be why the State did not make it-and the State has not otherwise advocated for a change in the law. In fact, our research has not found one case in which an Arkansas appellate court has held that a criminal defendant's course of conduct waives an argument that the circuit court lacked the authority to revoke a probation sentence.

         The cases hold the opposite: a circuit court's power to revoke a defendant's probation may be raised for the first time on appeal. See Trif v. State, 2016 Ark.App. 452, at 4, 503 S.W.3d 802, 805 (whether circuit court can revoke probation or has jurisdiction to do so may be raised ...


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