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Commonwealth v. Murphy

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 8, 2019

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
v.
SHANE EDWARD MURPHY, JR., Appellant.

          Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence, December 18, 2017, in the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Criminal Division at No(s): CP-09-CR-0002333-2017.

          BEFORE: BOWES, J., SHOGAN, J., and KUNSELMAN, J.

          OPINION

          KUNSELMAN, J.

         Shane Edward Murphy appeals from his judgment of sentence entered after a judge determined he violated the terms of his probation. After review, we vacate his judgment of sentence and the finding of a violation and remand for a new probation violation hearing.

         In July 2017, Murphy pleaded guilty to pulling a false fire alarm in an apartment building.[1] After accepting a plea deal between the Commonwealth and Murphy, the trial judge, using a form order, imposed a sentence of 18 months of county probation. See Trial Court Order, 7/12/17. The judge completed the rest of the relevant portions of the form order as follows:

[X] Other: Probation may term[inate] after completion of 12 months with no violations if approved by adult probation - this case to stay with Judge Gibbons only.

         SPECIAL CONDITIONS:

[X] Costs within . . .
[X] Anger Management Program: Screen for / Ordered . . .
[X] No Contact with Victim: Colonial Point Apts. Complex . . .
[X] Drug & Alcohol/Mental Health Evaluation within days and abide by recommendations . . . .

Id. (italics indicates handwritten portion of order). Notably, the order failed to specify when Murphy had to commence or complete the special conditions of the anger management classes or the drug and alcohol/mental health evaluations.

         Five months later, the Commonwealth summoned Murphy before the trial judge for failing to comply with those special conditions.

         Probation Officer Natalia Mozyrsky, addressed the trial judge on behalf of the Commonwealth. See N.T., 12/18/17, at 2-3. According to Officer Mozyrsky, Murphy "stated unequivocally that he will not put out a dime of his own money to pay for any condition that the court had ordered and will not complete a drug and alcohol or mental health assessment, nor pay for anger management classes other than the class he found on the Internet." Id. at 3-4.

         The trial judge was familiar with Murphy, because she had sentenced him following his negotiated guilty plea to the false-alarm charge in July 2017. In fact, when she originally sentenced him on that charge, she included a condition at his guilty plea hearing that, "If [Murphy] violates this probation, he be brought back in front of me and that I will determine what the appropriate sanction will be." N.T., 7/12/17, at 19-20. At the revocation hearing, the trial judge allowed Murphy to testify about his inability to pay. N.T., 12.18/17, at 6-10. ...


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