IN THE SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF WEST VIRGINIA
January 2007 Term
STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA,
Plaintiff Below, Appellee
JAMES K. HOSBY,
Defendant Below, Appellant
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County
Honorable Thomas W. Steptoe, Jr., Judge
Criminal Action No. 04-F-34
Submitted: May 9, 2007
Filed: June 7, 2007
James T. Kratovil, Esq. Darrell V. McGraw, Jr., Esq.
Kratovil and Amore, PLLC Attorney General
Charles Town, West Virginia R. Christopher Smith, Esq.
Attorney for Appellant Assistant Attorney General
Charleston, West Virginia
Attorneys for Appellee
The Opinion of the Court was delivered PER CURIAM.
SYLLABUS BY THE COURT
1. When reviewing the findings of fact and conclusions of law of a circuit
court sentencing a defendant following a revocation of probation, we apply a three-pronged
standard of review. We review the decision on the probation revocation motion under an
abuse of discretion standard; the underlying facts are reviewed under a clearly erroneous
standard; and questions of law and interpretations of statutes and rules are subject to a de
review. Syllabus Point 1, State v. Duke
, 200 W.Va. 356, 489 S.E.2d 738 (1997).
2. Probation is a matter of grace and not a matter of right. Syllabus Point
1, State v. Rose, 156 W.Va. 342, 192 S.E.2d 884 (1972).
This case is before this Court upon appeal of a final order of the Circuit Court
of Jefferson County entered on October 24, 2005. In that order, the circuit court revoked the
probation of the appellant and defendant below, James K. Hosby, and ordered him to serve
the remainder of the one-year jail sentence he received as a result of his guilty plea to the
misdemeanor offense of failure to pay child support, a violation of W.Va. Code § 61-5-29(1)
(1999). (See footnote 1) In this appeal, the appellant contends that the circuit court erred by revoking his
This Court has before it the petition for appeal, the entire record, and the briefs
and argument of counsel. For the reasons set forth below, the final order is affirmed.
On April 21, 2004, the appellant was indicted on two felony counts of failure
to pay child support for his daughter in violation of W.Va. Code § 61-5-29(2). (See footnote 2)
a child support order entered on February 9, 1998, the appellant's monthly child support
payment was $322.00. The appellant entered a guilty plea to one count of the lesser
misdemeanor offense of failure to pay child support in violation of W.Va. Code § 61-5-29(1) (See footnote 3)
on August 13, 2004. As a result of his guilty plea, the appellant was sentenced to one year
in the Eastern Regional Jail. However, his sentence was suspended, and he was placed on
probation for five years. The terms of the probation required the appellant to, inter alia,
restitution to his child's mother in the amount of $13,282.14.
On May 16, 2005, the appellant's probation officer, Kimberly Rowland, filed
a Motion for Revocation of Probation. Ms. Rowland alleged that the appellant had violated
the terms of his probation by: (1) failing to report to her in January 2005, March 2005, April
2005, and May 2005; (2) failing to make regular child support payments; (3) failing to inform
her of his employment status including any change of employment; and (4) failing to make
regular restitution payments. A probation revocation hearing was held on June 24, 2005.
During the probation revocation hearing, the appellant admitted that he had
failed to report to his probation officer; failed to make regular child support payments; failed
to report his employment status to his probation officer; and failed to make regular restitution
payments. With regard to his failure to report to his probation officer in January 2005, the
appellant testified that he had been traveling back and forth from Jefferson County, West
Virginia, to Winchester, Virginia, to care for his mother who was in the hospital. He said
that he advised his probation officer of his mother's illness during his February 2005
meeting. The appellant further testified that his mother was subsequently transferred to a
hospital in Washington, D.C., and that he missed his March and April 2005 meetings with
his probation officer because he was traveling back and forth and getting everything
situated. The appellant stated that he missed the May 2005 meeting with his probation
officer because he had been kicked by a horse.
The appellant made a child support payment the day before his probation
revocation hearing, and so, at the time he appeared in court, he was just a few hundred
dollars short of being current on the payments that had been due since his conviction.
However, he had failed to make any substantial reduction in the arrearage. (See footnote 4)
indicated that he was currently employed by an office supply store and was making
approximately $11.80 per hour. The appellant's mother also testified on his behalf. She said
that her son had cared for her while she was ill and in the hospital.
After hearing all the testimony, the court entered an order on October 24, 2005,
revoking the appellant's probation and ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence
in the Eastern Regional Jail. The order was stayed pending the outcome of this appeal.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In Syllabus Point 1 of State v. Duke
, 200 W.Va. 356, 489 S.E.2d 738 (1997),
this Court explained that,
When reviewing the findings of fact and conclusions of
law of a circuit court sentencing a defendant following a
revocation of probation, we apply a three-pronged standard of
review. We review the decision on the probation revocation
motion under an abuse of discretion standard; the underlying
facts are reviewed under a clearly erroneous standard; and
questions of law and interpretations of statutes and rules are
subject to a de novo review.
Accordingly, with these standards in mind, we will determine whether the circuit court erred
by revoking the appellant's probation.
The appellant contends that his failure to report to his probation officer and to
make his child support payments was the result of factors outside of his control and was not
contumacious. Therefore, he concludes that the circuit court erred by revoking his probation.
In support of his argument, the appellant relies upon this Court's holding in Syllabus Point
1 of State v. Minor, 176 W.Va. 92, 341 S.E.2d 838 (1986), which states that, 'Probation may
not be revoked for failure to pay restitution, costs and attorneys fees unless the probationer's
failure is contumacious.' Syllabus Point 2, Armstead v. Dale  W.Va. , 294 S.E.2d
122 (1982). The appellant says that as a result of his mother's illness and hospitalization,
he was not able to work and pay restitution as he should. For the same reason, he was unable
to report to his probation officer as required. He argues that the facts of his case do not
support his incarceration. He points out that he made a child support payment before the
hearing in an attempt to be current on the payments that had been due since his conviction.
While he apparently miscalculated, he was only two payments behind at the time of the
hearing. He claims that his attempt to cure his default shows that he was not contumacious.
He merely exercised poor judgment in his choices.
The appellant further argues that the public's interest is not served by his
incarceration. He says that if he is incarcerated, his arrearage will increase, his child will
suffer, and the State will have to incur additional costs. The appellant contends that
continued probation will allow him to reduce his arrearage, make current payments, and be
a productive member of society.
In response, the State contends that the appellant's failure to comply with the
probation agreement was, in fact, contumacious. The State concedes that the appellant was
going through some difficult circumstances as a result of his mother's illness, but maintains
that he could have at least called his probation officer and informed her of his situation. The
appellant has admitted that he never attempted to call his probation officer. The State notes
that while at the time of the hearing the appellant was almost current on his child support
payments that were due since his conviction, he only made the payment the day before the
hearing. Furthermore, the appellant failed to reduce the arrearage. Thus, the State reasons
that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by revoking the appellant's probation.
It is well established that [p]robation is a matter of grace and not a matter of
right. Syllabus Point 1, State v. Rose, 156 W.Va. 342, 192 S.E.2d 884 (1972). Thus,
pursuant to W.Va. Code § 62-12-10 (1955),
If at any time during the period of probation there shall
be reasonable cause to believe that the probationer has violated
any of the conditions of his probation, the probation officer may
arrest him with or without an order or warrant, or the court
which placed him on probation, or the judge thereof in vacation,
may issue an order for his arrest, whereupon he shall be brought
before the court, or the judge thereof in vacation, for a prompt
and summary hearing. If it shall then appear to the satisfaction
of the court or judge that any condition of probation has been
violated, the court or judge may revoke the suspension of
imposition or execution of sentence, impose sentence if none
has been imposed, and order that sentence be executed. In
computing the period for which the offender is to be imprisoned,
the time between his release on probation and his arrest shall not
be taken to be any part of the term of his sentence. If, despite a
violation of the conditions of probation, the court or judge shall
be of the opinion that the interests of justice do not require that
the probationer serve his sentence, the court or judge may,
except when the violation was the commission of a felony, again
release him on probation.
The record in this case clearly shows that the appellant violated the terms and
conditions of his probation. As noted by the circuit court,
[The appellant] did not report as directed for January of 2005,
March of 2005, April of 2005, May of 2005. He was not in
contact with the probation office since February of 2005 up until
the time this petition was filed.
His regular _ his child support payments have not been
made on a regular basis and there's a question as to whether
they're current at this time. He has made a few payments
against the rather substantial arrearage. It appears that they're
irregular and probably have ended up with accruing interest.
There is, clearly he has failed to keep the probation officer
informed of his status.
Whether or not the appellant's failure to pay the child support arrearage was contumacious,
the fact remains that he failed to report to his probation officer and comply with the other
terms of his probation. As the circuit court explained,
Whatever excuse the Court might try to make for him in
terms of not keeping the child support payments up, there is no
rational way the Court can excuse his failure to make a phone
call to the probation office _ officer and keep her notified as to
what was going on.W.Va. Code § 62-12-10 clearly authorizes revocation of probation under these
circumstances. (See footnote 5) Thus, we find that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in revoking
the appellant's probation.
We further find that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by ordering
the appellant to serve the remainder of his one year sentence in the Eastern Regional Jail.
We have explained that '[u]nder the abuse of discretion standard, we will not disturb a
circuit court's decision unless the circuit court makes a clear error of judgment or exceeds
the bounds of permissible choices in the circumstances.' Hensley v. West Virginia Dep't
of Health and Human Res., 203 W.Va. 456, 461, 508 S.E.2d 616, 621 (1998) (quoting
Gribben v. Kirk, 195 W.Va. 488, 500, 466 S.E.2d 147, 159 (1995)). In other words, Where
the law commits a determination to a trial judge and his discretion is exercised with judicial
balance, the decision should not be overruled unless the reviewing court is actuated, not by
a desire to reach a different result, but by a firm conviction that an abuse of discretion has
been committed. Intercity Realty Co. v. Gibson, 154 W.Va. 369, 377, 175 S.E.2d 452, 457
(1970), overuled on other grounds by Cales v. Wills, 212 W.Va. 232, 569 S.E.2d 479 (2002)
Given the facts of this case, this Court would have strongly considered placing
the appellant on home confinement or ordering him to serve weekends in jail so that he could
continue to work and make his child support payments. Be that as it may, the decision of the
circuit court to order the appellant to serve the remainder of his sentence was not a clear error
of judgment and was certainly within the bounds of permissible choices in the circumstances.
Consequently, we must affirm the final order. We note, however, that the appellant may
seek a reduction of his sentence. Pursuant to Rule 35(b) of the West Virginia Rules of
Criminal Procedure, the appellant may file a motion for a reduction of his sentence with the
circuit court within 120 days after the entry of the mandate in this case. (See footnote 6) In order for the
appellant to immediately file such a motion, the mandate in this case will be issued forthwith.
Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, the final order of the Circuit Court
of Jefferson County entered on October 24, 2005, is affirmed.
The Clerk of this Court is hereby directed to issue the mandate in this case