Updated on June 2, 2020
Probation Revocation Hearings Require Competency
Issue: There is no statutory protection requiring a defendant be competent at a hearing to revoke his probation. Is competence constitutionally protected nonetheless at this stage?
Answer: Yes. A defendant’s competency at a probation revocation hearing is a constitutionally protected due process right. Further, Kansas district courts have inherent authority to order a competency evaluation when a defendant’s competency is questioned during probation revocation hearings.
Facts: After a revocation hearing, Rodrigo Francisco Gonzalez had his probation revoked for violating the terms of the probation agreement. Gonzalez’s competence was questioned multiple times during the trial and again during the probation revocation hearing. No formal procedure exists for a Kansas district court to order a competency evaluation under these circumstances. The status of Gonzalez’ competency was never fully resolved.
Discussion: A defendant’s competency at a probation revocation hearing is a constitutionally protected due process right. Here, the record was insufficient to determine Gonzalez’s competence. If Gonzalez was competent at the time of the hearing, no Due Process violation occurred. If he was not competent, then his liberty was infringed without the chance to be meaningfully heard. The court held that despite the lack of formal procedure to order a competency hearing under these circumstances, Kansas district courts have inherent authority to order a competency evaluation for a defendant facing probation revocation. The court remanded for a determination of Gonzalez’s competence retrospectively.
U.S. Const. amend. V.
Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976).
Gagnon v. Scarpelli, 411 U.S. 778, 778, 781 (1973).
State v. Ford, 353 P.3d 1143 (Kan. 2015).