‘Court has no jurisdiction over expired probation’

Posted on Dec 18 2005

The Superior Court has granted a defendant’s motion to terminate his probation as it had already expired.

Associate Judge Juan T. Lizama ruled that once defendant Vicente Laniyo was released, the court lost jurisdiction, because both the bench warrant and probation period had expired.

“Unless the defendant again voluntarily submits himself to this court’s jurisdiction, the Court can do nothing further in this case,” Lizama said as he also denied the Attorney General’s Office’s motion to extend Laniyo’s probation and forfeit his bail.

Court records show that on March 14, 2004, Laniyo entered a guilty plea to the offense of assault and battery. He was sentenced to one-year imprisonment, which was suspended except for four days. He was placed on probation for one year.

Laniyo failed to appear at a review hearing on Jan. 13, 2005. As a result, Lizama issued a bench warrant and set bail at $1,000 cash.

For the duration of the probation time, the government did not file a motion to revoke probation.

No further action was taken by either party until April 22, 2005 when Laniyo moved the court to set a review hearing for April 28, 2005.

At the April 28 hearing, the court quashed the warrant and continued the review hearing to May 5, 2005.

On May 5, Laniyo moved the court to terminate his probation as it had expired on March 10, 2005.

The AGO objected and moved for sanctions.

Lizama said Commonwealth courts have previously ruled that a court’s jurisdiction to act on a probation matter expires with the termination of the probationary period.

A violation of probation is a defiance of a court order, which falls in the category of sanctionable actions, he said.

However, the judge noted, given that the court no longer has jurisdiction over the probation, it cannot entertain a motion to forfeit bail or to impose sanctions.

Lizama pointed two problems with the present system of executing bench warrants.

The first, he said, is the failure of the Attorney General to execute bench warrants by timely serving them upon the defendant.

The second is the failure of the court system to detain a defendant, based on a bench warrant, when the defendant voluntarily appears in court, he said.

If the AG abdicates his responsibility, Lizama said he has no power to serve the warrant on the AG’s behalf.

When Laniyo appeared in court in April 2005, the court, pursuant to the bench warrant, had jurisdiction over the defendant.

The court could have issued a new order detaining the defendant until he paid bail, he said.

Instead, Lizama said, the court allowed the defendant to go free, releasing him from the power of the bench warrant.

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