Black v. Romano,
471 U.S. 606 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Black v. Romano, 471 U.S. 606 (1985)

Black v. Romano

No. 84-465

Argued March 18, 1985

Decided May 20, 1985

471 U.S. 606


Respondent, upon pleading guilty in a Missouri state court to controlled substance offenses, was put on probation and given suspended prison sentences. Two months later, he was arrested for and subsequently charged with leaving the scene of an automobile accident, a felony. After a hearing, the judge who had sentenced respondent, finding that respondent had violated his probation conditions by committing a felony, revoked probation and ordered execution of the previously imposed sentences. After unsuccessfully seeking postconviction relief in state court, respondent filed a habeas corpus petition in Federal District Court, alleging that the state judge had violated due process requirements by revoking probation without considering alternatives to incarceration. The District Court agreed and ordered respondent released from custody. The Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not generally require a sentencing court to indicate that it has considered alternatives to incarceration before revoking probation. The procedures for revocation of probation -- written notice to the probationer of the claimed probation violations, disclosure of the evidence against him, an opportunity for the probationer to be heard in person and to present witnesses and documentary evidence, a neutral hearing body, a written statement by the factfinder as to the evidence relied on and the reasons for revoking probation, the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses unless the hearing body finds good cause for not allowing confrontation, and the right to assistance of counsel, Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U. S. 471; Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U. S. 778 -- do not include an express statement by the factfinder that alternatives to incarceration were considered and rejected. The specified procedures adequately protect the probationer against revocation of probation in a constitutionally unfair manner. Pp. 471 U. S. 610-614.

2. The procedures required by the Due Process Clause were afforded in this case, even though the state judge did not explain on the record his consideration and rejection of alternatives to incarceration. The revocation

Page 471 U. S. 607

of probation did not violate due process simply because the offense of leaving the scene of all accident was unrelated to the offense for which respondent was previously convicted or because, after the revocation proceeding, the charges arising from the automobile accident were reduced to the misdemeanor of reckless and careless driving. Pp. 471 U. S. 615-616.

735 F.2d 319, reversed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except POWELL, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. MARSHALL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 471 U. S. 617.

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