WA Supreme Court: Bench Warrant on Probation Violation Only Requires Well-Founded Suspicion
Erikson was on probation, and failed to show for probation hearing. Naturally, the court issued a bench warrant. He was found, arrested, and the search revealed little bit of snow. Seeing as he was arrested in August, I'm guessing this wasn't acquired at a recent trip to Whistler.
Anyhow, the court never did make a formal finding of probable cause on the probation violation alleged. This argument didn't go over so well:
Erickson essentially argues that under Parks, a judge does not have authority to issue an arrest warrant unless a formal finding of probable cause has previously been made on the underlying reasons for the hearing, in this case the probation violation allegations. But as the Court of Appeals noted below, unlike Parks, Erickson had not simply been accused of a crime but had previously been convicted of fourth degree assault. Erickson, 143 Wn. App. at 666-67. The Court of Appeals reasoned that because probable cause had earlier been found on that charge, the bench warrant was valid. Id. at 662. It noted, "punishment imposed for a probation violation relates to the original conviction for which probation was granted." Id. (citing State v. Watson, 160 Wn.2d 1, 8-9, 154 P.3d 909 (2007)). It therefore held that Erickson could be arrested for failing to appear at the scheduled hearing regardless of whether the court had cause to believe he had violated his probation. Erickson, 143 Wn. App. at 667.
. . .
Erickson argues that under Fisher, the court here could only issue a bench warrant if it had at minimum a "well-founded suspicion" that a violation of the terms of release had occurred. Id. at 232. While we agree with Erickson regarding the required standard, we conclude that in this case the issuing court did have a "well founded suspicion" that Erickson had violated the conditions of his release. Had the bench warrant here been issued immediately after the court received notice of the probation violation allegations, we might be more persuaded by Erickson's argument. But one of the conditions of Erickson's release was that he notify the court of any address change. The returned summons stated that Erickson had moved and had left no forwarding address. This alone provided the court with a well-founded suspicion that Erickson had violated the terms of release. The bench warrant was therefore valid and provided adequate authority of law to arrest Erickson.