Attorney Amber Cognata recently convinced a Clark County District Court commissioner to reconsider ordering an indigent client to pay for post-conviction GPS monitoring.
Commissioner Todd George initially granted a Vancouver assistant city attorney’s request for the GPS monitoring during a Jan. 31 sentencing hearing, but said his order would not go into effect until Cognata had a chance to argue it. Cognata’s client had pled guilty to one count of harassment and one count of violating a civil antiharassment protection order, both gross misdemeanors.
At the time of the plea, her client had served 34 days in jail. The city prosecutor did not ask for additional jail time even though gross misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail.
In her subsequent motion contesting the judge’s decision, Cognata wrote that the GPS monitoring authorized by state lawmakers was meant for pre-trial monitoring and not to be imposed as part of a sentence.
The pre-trial GPS monitoring was part of the Tiffany Hill act. Defendants pay for the monitoring and domestic violence victims are notified if their alleged abusers come within a certain distance.
In Clark County, the service is provided by 2 Watch Monitoring. Defendants pay a $100 setup fee and $20 a day, Cognata wrote. Imposing GPS monitoring for six months would cost her client approximately $3,700 while a year would cost approximately $7,200.
For clients such as hers, who are given court-appointed attorneys because a judge finds they cannot afford to hire one, paying thousands of dollars for post-plea monitoring would often be impossible, Cognata wrote.
“There is no statutory authority to impose GPS monitoring post-plea,” Cognata wrote. “The agreed upon sentence was an offer for credit for time served, which totaled 34 days in jail. GPS monitoring was not a condition imposed in lieu of earned release time or imposed as part of his sentence, but instead an additional condition of his sentence. The protected parties in this case received the benefit of GPS monitoring while (her client) was out of custody and his charge was pending. Now that he has served his sentence, he should not continue to be monitored for the entirety of his two-year probation. Post-plea, the victims in this matter will still be protected through anti-harassment orders and a no-contact order.”
If her client was ordered to pay for monitoring and unable to afford it, he would likely be penalized for violating probation and be sent back to jail. “This kind of outcome was not the intent of the legislature when this bill was created,” Cognata wrote.
The assistant city attorney argued the court has broad discretion to impose conditions of probation, and that includes conditions meant to prevent the future commission of crimes.
During a Feb. 10 hearing Commissioner George found that the client’s indigency was good reason not to order monitoring and removed it as a condition of probation.