People v. McNair
Criminal Court Discusses Electronic Monitoring as a Special Condition to a Probation Sentence
On October 27, 1993 at approximately 2:30 in the morning, a police officer pulled the appellant’s car over for speeding and running a red light Poughkeepsie, New York. The appellant was subsequently arrested for driving while intoxicated DWI, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree, both felonies. On January 11, 1994, the appellant waived his right to be prosecuted by indictment and pled guilty under Superior Court Information in Dutchess County Court to driving while intoxicated as a felony in satisfaction of the pending charges against him. On February 24, 1994, County Court sentenced the appellant to five years probation which included six months imprisonment. A special condition of the probationary sentence imposed that appellant serve up to one year of electronic monitoring following the completion of his jail term. The trial judge advised the defendant at sentencing that the electronic monitoring could be terminated by the appellant’s probation officer prior to the completion of one year. The court also directed that the appellant attend the Victim Impact Panel at the earliest opportunity following his release from jail, pay a $1,000.00 fine, a $150.00 mandatory surcharge and the $5.00 crime victim’s assistance fee. The appellant took an appeal to challenge the electronic monitoring portion of his probationary sentence as it was unauthorized and illegally imposed. On February 6, 1995, the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed in a memorandum decision. The Appellant then appealed to the Court of Appeals on the ground that the court was not empowered to highly restrict a defendant’s freedom of movement for substantial periods of time in the absence of any statutory authorization.
The Court of Appeals examined the reason for the court including the special condition of electronic monitoring. The trial judge stated that the appellant was convicted on prior occasions for driving under the influence and the he had lost the trust of the court. Therefore, the use of the electronic monitoring was primarily to assure the court that the roadways were safe from the appellant’s driving. Public safety was the biggest consider when the court imposed this special condition. The case of Letterlough, 86 N.Y.2d questions regarding public safety may not be considered in determining special probation conditions under the catch all phrase of section 65.10(2) (1) of the Penal Law. Section 65.10(2) (1) of the Penal Law allows a sentencing court to impose probationary conditions that is reasonably related to rehabilitation. The aim of the electronic monitoring was to keep the appellant under the Probation Department’s surveillance but it did not serve the goal of deterrence by stoping the appellant from drinking and driving. The only rehabilitative benefit to surveillance was purely incidental as it restricted the appellant’s movement and thereby reduced his opportunity to commit a crime.
Therefore, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. It held that sentencing court exceeded its authority under probation statute’s catch-all provision, in ordering one year of electronic monitoring. A ruling that upheld electronic monitoring would inevitably lead to the uneven and invasive application of the electronic monitoring technology as courts around the State experiment with this unregulated sentencing tool. The matter was remitted for further proceeding on the superior court information.
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