Due Process in Drug Court, Commonwealth v. Harris
Judson Harris is a 24-year-old who was charged with felony drug possession in both Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County. He pled guilty to both charges, and avoided jail time on condition that he attend Drug Court, a diversion program for nonviolent offenders. It is an intensive outpatient program which requires numerous meetings, individual and group counseling sessions, and regular urine screens. Violation of any terms of the Drug Court can result in the person being sent back to criminal court and sentenced. Judson was in the program for about a year, and complied with all of the rules and regulations. He did not miss any meetings, and all of his drug screens were clean. However, he was abruptly terminated from the program because he used the name of a drug court “surveillance officer” on his MySpace Page. He was given no notice of the termination, no opportunity to defend himself or appeal the termination. Having been terminated from the Drug Court, Judson now faces sentencing in Circuit Court. A sentencing hearing was held in Spotsylvania County on November 19. The judge refused to consider our due process arguments, and sentenced Judson to six months in jail. A sentencing hearing in Fredericksburg on January 14 had similar results. We have appealed both rulings. The Court of Appeals granted our petition for appeal in both cases. Oral argument in the Spotsylvania case took place on December 3, 2008. On March 10, 2009, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court ruling. We filed petitions for appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court in both cases. The court denied our petition in the Spotsylvania case, but granted it in the Fredericksburg case. We filed our opening brief on November 9, 2009 and oral arguments were heard on January 14. On February 25, 2010, the Supreme Court held that Harris had been denied due process.