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Faircloth v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

January 10, 2020

Catrina Renee Faircloth
v.
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Escambia Circuit Court (CC-17-458.72)

          MINOR, JUDGE.

         Catrina Renee Faircloth appeals from the circuit court's revocation of her sentence to community corrections. We consider whether there was sufficient evidence for the circuit court to revoke Faircloth's sentence to community corrections, and, if so, whether the circuit court's imposition of a three-year split sentence and a five-year probationary period exceeded the restrictions of § 15-18-8(b), Ala. Code 1975, the Split-Sentence Act.[1] For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence to revoke Faircloth's sentence to community corrections but that the split sentence and probationary term imposed by the circuit court following that revocation exceeded that allowed by § 15-18-8(b).

         Faircloth pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, a Class C felony, and, on July 2, 2018, she was sentenced as a habitual felony offender to 15 years in the custody of the State Department of Corrections ("DOC"), split to serve 2 years in community corrections followed by 5 years of probation. On February 1, 2019, Faircloth's probation officer filed a petition to revoke Faircloth's community-corrections sentence, alleging that Faircloth had violated the conditions of community corrections by committing the new offenses of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and having an automobile tag on her vehicle that belonged to another vehicle.[2] A revocation hearing was held on April 24, 2019. The State presented the testimony of two witnesses.

         Officer Derrick Hodges testified that on January 27, 2019, he was employed as a police officer with the East Brewton Police Department when he saw Faircloth driving a vehicle. Officer Hodges "made eye contact" with Faircloth because, he said, "she has been warned several times to quit driving without a license." (R. 7.) Officer Hodges "ran the tag" on the vehicle Faircloth was driving and when it came back as a tag belonging to a vehicle other than the one she was driving, Officer Hodges initiated a traffic stop.

         Officer Hodges testified that when he stopped Faircloth's vehicle, Faircloth was alone. Officer Hodges testified that he asked Faircloth why she was driving, and she told him that she did not have a driver's license but that the vehicle belonged to her father. Officer Hodges testified that he asked Faircloth if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, and Faircloth told him that she was on community corrections and that she "can't mess up." Officer Hodges asked Faircloth if he could search the vehicle, and Faircloth agreed. Officer Hodges searched the vehicle and found "a digital scale used to weigh drugs" in the center console of the vehicle. (R. 9, 11.) Officer Hodges testified that there was a "white residue" on top of the scales. (R. 11.) Officer Hodges did not field-test the scales or the white residue, but he testified that he is familiar with digital scales and that they are commonly used to weigh drugs. Faircloth told Officer Hodges that the scales belonged to her boyfriend, who had been in possession of the vehicle before her, and that her boyfriend would admit that the scales belonged to him. Officer Hodges arrested Faircloth for possession of drug paraphernalia and gave her a citation for having a switched tag. Officer Hodges testified that Faircloth's boyfriend tried to come forward and take the blame for the scales but that "he was incarcerated in the jail and I don't talk to inmates." (R. 10.)

         Matthew Rabren, the director of the Escambia County community corrections program, testified that one of the conditions of Faircloth's sentence to community corrections was that she not be the subject of any new charges. He testified that the new charges that had been brought against Faircloth represented Faircloth's third community-corrections violation.

         Faircloth testified in her own defense at the revocation hearing. She testified that she was driving her father's vehicle and that her father had not yet switched the tag. Faircloth testified that the digital scales found in the vehicle belonged to her boyfriend, Michael Lawrence, who was, she admitted, selling drugs, and that she did not know that the scales were in the vehicle. Faircloth testified that, when she went to court regarding the drug-paraphernalia charge, that charge was dismissed. Faircloth admitted that she had previously been convicted of possession of a controlled substance.

         Following the hearing the circuit court, having heard the evidence, stated: "I hereby adjudge, adjudicate and find that Ms. Faircloth did violate community corrections by unlawfully possessing drug paraphernalia and driving a vehicle with a switched tag." (R. 23.) The circuit court then entered a written revocation order summarizing each witness's testimony and detailing the evidence supporting a finding that Faircloth had violated her community-corrections sentence. The circuit court revoked Faircloth's sentence to community corrections and ordered as follows:

"After hearing all of the testimony and evidence, and the court being reasonably satisfied that defendant has violated community corrections in this case, it is, therefore, ordered and adjudged that the defendant has violated community corrections in this case. It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the defendant is hereby resentenced to one-hundred eighty (180) months in the custody of the Department of Corrections. The 180 month sentence is suspended, and, under the Split Sentence Act to serve thirty-six (36) months in the Department of Corrections and the balance of sixty (60) months on state probation. The defendant shall be given credit for time served as allowed by Alabama law."

(C. 19.) This appeal followed.

         Faircloth raises two issues on appeal: Whether the State presented sufficient evidence regarding the allegation of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and whether the three-year split sentence and the five-year probationary period imposed upon her at the time of the revocation were allowable under § 15-18-8(b), Ala. Code 1975. We address each of those issues below.

         I.

         Faircloth argues that there was insufficient evidence presented at the hearing upon which to revoke her sentence to community corrections. She argues that the State failed to show that the digital scales that were found in the vehicle that Faircloth was driving were drug paraphernalia because, she says, the ...


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