State v. Ricketts
The ultimate question in the dispositional phase of a probation violation proceeding, as stated in the 2008 Connecticut Supreme Court case of State v. Preston, is "whether the probationer is still a good risk." Sean Ricketts was convicted of robbery in the second degree and sentenced to 10 years incarceration, execution suspended after two and a half years with five years of probation. While on probation, he was in the back seat of an automobile that fled police when officers approached to investigate suspicious activity. The vehicle, when stopped, was found to contain an operable firearm. None of the occupants had a valid permit. While Ricketts was being processed into lockup, a judicial marshal found a bag containing marijuana in Ricketts' pocket. The court found that Ricketts violated the terms of his probation and vacated his prior sentence. The court sentenced him to seven years' incarceration, execution suspended after five years with four years and nine months probation. Ricketts appealed claiming, first, that the evidence was insufficient to support the finding that he violated the terms of his probation. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. Although the defendant characterized his first claim in terms of evidentiary sufficiency, it was, in essence, a claim that the court improperly admitted the marijuana into evidence. He contended that the state provided insufficient chain of custody evidence to allow the court to find that the defendant possessed marijuana. The defendant failed to object to the admission of the marijuana as a full exhibit and the Appellate Court declined to review the unpreserved evidentiary claim. The defendant also contended that the court abused its discretion in sentencing him for the probation violation because the maximum penalty for the firearms possession charge was five years' incarceration and he should not have received any jail time for the marijuana possession given Public Act 11-71. However, the question in the dispositional phase is not how much time, if any, the defendant would serve for being in possession of 0.02 ounces of marijuana or for the firearms charge. Rather, the sentence is punishment for the criminal conduct that led to the robbery conviction. The court acted within its discretion under C.G.S. §53a-32(d)(4) after finding the probation violation.