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Evidentiary Requirements in Sentencing: The Case of Kurtis La'Dair Thomas v. State of Alabama


In a case that defines the evidentiary requirements for criminal sentencing, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals recently presided over an appeal centered in Montgomery County. This case, Kurtis La’Dair Thomas v. State of Alabama, addresses the necessary evidence required to revoke a community corrections placement, highlighting the State’s burden to provide nonhearsay evidence in such circumstances.

In January of 2020, Kurtis La’Dair Thomas pleaded guilty for multiple charges under the Alabama Code. These charges included possessing a firearm when Thomas was part of a class forbidden to do so under 13A-11-72, receiving stolen property in the third degree under §13A-18-1, and resisting arrest under §13A-10-41. Consequently, Thomas was sentenced to two years in community corrections, followed by five years of supervised probation. During his time in community corrections, Thomas violated the conditions of his placement on numerous occasions, leading to his arrest and subsequent placement back in community corrections. On August 11, 2023, Thomas’s case manager filed a “delinquency charge,” claiming that Thomas had been arrested for first-degree theft of property. At Thomas’s revocation hearing on October 19, 2023, employees of the community corrections program produced an order, which Thomas had signed, stating that, following any additional violations, Thomas could be arrested and removed from the program. On this basis, the circuit court entered an order revoking Thomas’s placement in community corrections, leading to this appeal.

Thomas’s appeal centers around the evidentiary requirements to revoke his placement. Specifically, Thomas argued that the circuit court relied solely on hearsay evidence when revoking his placement. Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, hearsay evidence refers to statements made outside of testimony at trial that are offered to prove the truth of some matter at issue. Although the State had presented a mixture of evidence, including nonhearsay evidence, the only things presented at Thomas’s revocation hearing were Thomas’s arrest for property theft and the argument of counsel.

The Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision clarifies both the rights of the accused and the evidentiary requirements in criminal sentencing. The Court concluded that the State was required to present nonhearsay evidence showing that Thomas had violated the terms of his sentence. Thomas’s arrest alone was insufficient to revoke his sentence. In holding this, the Court also clarified that arguments of counsel are not evidence, and therefore could not be relied on to sustain the revocation.

Kurtis La’Dair Thomas v. State of Alabama illustrates the importance of evidence in criminal sentencing. Although Thomas had clearly agreed to the terms of his placement within community corrections, the State was still required to prove his violation of the terms. Despite pleading guilty to the previous charges, Thomas maintained his right to have all new allegations against him proven by evidence. This case strengthens the rights of the accused while simultaneously clarifying the State’s evidentiary requirements.

If you are facing a criminal case in Alabama, contact Joe Ingram or Ingram Law LLC at 205-335-2640. Get Relief Get Results


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