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Name: People v. Austin
Case #: D073523
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/24/2019

Defendant’s parole condition, which restricted him from contacting the “crime victim(s)” and listed a person who was not a crime victim, was unconstitutionally vague. Austin was charged with domestic violence offenses against his girlfriend Lisa and her adult son, Brent. He pleaded guilty to a single count of assault by force likely to inflict great bodily injury on Brent. He initially received probation but was violated for drug use and was sentenced. When Austin was released on parole he was advised of a parole condition that precluded contact with the “crime victims” and specified Lisa or Brent. In December 2017, the trial court held a post-remittitur hearing following an appeal in the underlying case to clarify the sentence it had previously imposed. At that hearing, the court stated that the protective order was no longer in effect as to Brent and that Lisa was never a protected party. At the end of 2017, Austin and Lisa married. His parole was revoked for violating the no-contact parole term. He appealed. Held: Reversed. Parole conditions must be reasonable and sufficiently precise for parolees to know what is required of them and whether the condition has been violated. Here, the no-contact parole term could reasonably be interpreted as prohibiting contact only with Brent, since he was the crime victim, and not Lisa. This is particularly true in light of the trial court’s December 6, 2017 finding that Lisa was neither a crime victim nor a protected person under its sentence. The no-contact parole condition was unconstitutionally vague as worded, requiring remand for appropriate modifications.

The trial court erred in finding it had no jurisdiction to modify a parole term. At the parole revocation hearing, Austin challenged the no-contact parole term as vague, overbroad, and unreasonable. The trial court misconstrued its authority when it stated it lacked jurisdiction to modify the parole term, as courts have the power to pass on the constitutionality or validity of parole conditions and may require their modification.

Defendant’s challenges to his parole term may be raised on appeal despite his failure to administratively appeal the no-contact condition. The lack of an administrative appeal has no bearing on a defendant’s right to contest a parole term at a parole revocation proceeding. The defendant may thereafter raise the issue on appeal.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: