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State v. Modtland

May 12, 2005

STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT,
v.
PATRICK JAMES MODTLAND, APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

The district court erred when it made only one of the three findings required by State v. Austin, 295 N.W.2d 246 (Minn. 1980), and, in so doing, failed to make findings regarding whether the defendant's probation violation was intentional or inexcusable and whether the need for the defendant's confinement outweighed the policies favoring probation.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blatz, Chief Justice.

Reversed and remanded.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

Appellant Patrick James Modtland appeals from an unpublished decision by the court of appeals holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it revoked Modtland's probation because Modtland did not object to the court's failure to make two of the three findings required by State v. Austin, 295 N.W.2d 246, 250 (Minn. 1980) and because the probation revocation hearing record contained sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the Austin factors had been satisfied. State v. Modtland, No. A04-17, 2004 WL 1774771 *1, *3 (Minn. App. Aug. 10, 2004). We reverse.

On January 28, 2003, Modtland burglarized a home in Mora, Minnesota, taking various household items and several firearms. Modtland was charged in Kanabec County District Court with first-degree burglary while possessing a firearm in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 1(b) (2004); second-degree burglary in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. (2)(a) (2004); theft of firearms in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subds. 2(1), 3(1) (2004); and third-degree criminal damage to property in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.595, subd. 2(a) (2004).

Modtland pleaded guilty to the first-and second-degree burglary charges on May 1, 2003. At sentencing, the judge stayed the execution of Modtland's 107-month sentence on the condition that Modtland complete the Minnesota Teen Challenge Program (MTC). The sentencing order specifically provided that "Defendant shall either be in the Teen Challenge program or in jail."

Modtland entered MTC on June 30, 2003--the day of his sentencing hearing--and was discharged three months later without completing the program. The discharge summary written by MTC's dean of men stated that on the day before Modtland was discharged he had an outburst with staff members in which he threatened to call a lawyer and insisted his rights were being violated. The discharge summary also stated that Modtland had "[grown] while in the program and there were moments where he was very genuine in his desire for help in the program, but his anger continued to flair up and hindered his progress."

Because the district court judge who originally sentenced Modtland was not available, the probation revocation hearing was presided over by another district court judge on October 6, 2003. At the revocation hearing, Modtland admitted that he had been discharged from MTC, but asked the court to allow him to return to the program. While he acknowledged that he had not expressed himself in the "right way" at MTC, he explained that he had become angry with the staff because medication he was taking to treat his stomach problems had been thrown away:

[P]eople were praying for me to be healed for my stomach problems. I wasn't finding any relief. My medication accidentally ended up in the garbage, and I felt it didn't end up in there by accident, and I was hurt, and I didn't believe what they were telling me, and I sit here, and I see them here willing to take me back, and I know in my heart that that program can help me.

After Modtland's explanation of his behavior at MTC, the district court revoked Modtland's probation, stating:

I think what might be helpful is for me to note that Mr. Modtland has waived his right to a contested hearing and entered an admission and agrees that he was in fact terminated involuntarily apparently from the Teen Challenge program. I think there are some confusions as to what exactly occurred, but getting to the bottom of those might not be exactly necessary for the revocation to be ordered, but it may become relevant on the issue of resentencing.

So what I will do at this time is find that Mr. Modtland has waived his right to a contested hearing and there has been sufficient information provided by him and in a review of the file, including the report of [the probation officer], for me to find that he has in fact violated the terms of his probation by failing to ...


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