Facts: Following his conviction for two drug offenses, petitioner Douglas Blackburn was sentenced to community confinement and substance abuse treatment pursuant to the sentencing alternative for first time drug offenders offered by Washington Revised Code §9.94A.660. After learning that Blackburn had allegedly threatened to kill his sister in law, the state of Washington subsequently notified Blackburn that he had violated the terms of his community confinement by failing to obey all laws and moved to have it revoked. Following a hearing, the hearing officer determined that Blackburn had violated §9A.46.020(1)(a)(ii) (Washington’s harassment statute), revoked his community confinement, and ordered Blackburn’s imprisonment for the remainder of his sentence. Blackburn subsequently filed a personal restraint petition seeking his release, asserting that the notice provided to him by the Department of Corrections of his alleged violation of the terms of his community confinement was insufficient insofar as it simply referred to the threat made to his sister in law and did not specify which statutory provision he had thereby violated.
Question(s): Was Blackburn’s right to due process under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution violated by the Department of Corrections’ failure to specify the crime it was accusing Blackburn of committing and its elements?
Conclusion: Justice Fairhurst’s opinion for a unanimous Court ruled that Blackburn’s right to due process of law had been violated by the manner in which the Department of Corrections notified him of his alleged failure to obey all laws as neglecting to specify which statute Blackburn was accused of violating impeded Blackburn’s ability to present a defense at the hearing (in particular given the fact that the hearing officer initially based their decision upon §9A.46.020(1)(a)(iv), which had previously been declared unconstitutional, rather than the constitutionally valid §9A.46.020(1)(a)(ii)). Thus, the Court granted Blackburn’s personal restraint petition and vacated the hearing officer’s decision.
Docket No. 82329-4
Petitioner: Douglas Blackburn
(Counsel: Jodi R. Backlund and Manek R.)
Respondent: State of Washington
(Counsel: Timothy Norman Lang, Donna H. Mullen, and Paul Douglas Weissner)
Argument: Thursday, March 18, 2010 1:30pm
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Prevailing Party: Douglas Blackburn (Petitioner)
Court: Madsen1 Court (2010-)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form. Each opinion should appear next to the Justice who authored it.