Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Affirms Positive Drug Test Means Incarceration

Terry Thomas appeals the revocation of his community corrections sentence in a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering him back to confinement for a twenty year sentence after a failed drug test. The Court here found no issue with the trial court’s ruling and affirmed it. 

Thomas was charged with possession of more than .5 grams of cocaine in a school zone, intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, carrying a knife with a blade longer than four inches and driving on a suspended license. He pled guilty and was given a 20-year sentence to be served on community corrections. 

In April 2011 a violation warrant was issued for Thomas after he tested positive for additional cocaine use. At the revocation hearing the community corrections officer, April Story, discussed how Thomas tested positive during a drug screen earlier that month. Thomas never asked for a second, confirmation test and Ms. Story admitted that besides the one positive test and occasional spotty attendance at drug treatment classes, Thomas had been in compliance with the rest of the terms of his sentence. 

Thomas claims to have been shocked by the positive test, denying he used cocaine. He said he had been working as an apprentice for an electrician and attended HVAC classes at night. He said friends had used the drug at his home recently but he had not shared in the experience. Thomas did admit to not living with his father as he had said he would and to not attending Bible college as promised. He further admitted to spotty drug treatment attendance but blamed his rigorous work schedule. 

The trial court considered the matter carefully and ultimately decided to revoke his community corrections placement, ordering that he serve the balance of his time in confinement. The court deemed the defendant’s testimony at the revocation hearing “not credible” and said it had to act to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Tennessee. 

The defendant believes the lower court abused its discretion by ordering him back to confinement and turned to the Court of Criminal Appeals for help. The Court mentioned that despite Thomas’ shock at his positive test he never took the next step of asking for a retest or even contesting the result. The Court held that the record supports the trial court’s decision and, as Thomas had been shown plenty of leniency by the judicial system, the Court was not inclined to give Thomas relief. 

To read the full opinion, click here.

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