Pulusila v. State

In Pulusila v. State,[1] the Alaska Court of Appeals held that in interpreting a condition of probation, a court must consider (1) whether a particular interpretation would ensure public safety or foster the defendant’s rehabilitation, and (2) how a reasonable person in the defendant’s place would understand the probation condition. In September 2016, Pulusila was on felony probation. As part of his probation, Pulusila was prohibited from having (1) any ammunition or explosives in his “custody, residence, or vehicles” or (2) any drug paraphernalia in his “residence or . . . any vehicle under his control.” After borrowing another man’s truck, Pulusila was pulled over by the Anchorage police. The police searched the truck and found a small explosive device, ammunition for a firearm and a methamphetamine pipe. Based on this discovery, the State petitioned the superior court to revoke Pulusila’s probation. Pulusila asserted that the truck was borrowed and he was unaware of the discovered items; he argued that because he had no mental culpability his probation should not be suspended. The superior court rejected this argument, applied strict liability, and revoked Pulusila’s probation. The court of appeals reversed, explaining that a reasonable person in Pulusila’s circumstances would not understand the conditions of probation to allow revocation of probation for unknowing possession of prohibited items. The court further explained that because conditions of probation must be reasonably related to rehabilitating an offender or protecting the public, ambiguous conditions should be given a meaning to further those purposes. The court found there was no clear public benefit to using a strict liability standard. Reversing the lower court, the court of appeals held that in interpreting a condition of probation, a court must evaluate (1) whether a particular interpretation would ensure public safety or foster the defendant’s rehabilitation and (2) how a reasonable person in the defendant’s place would understand the probation condition.

 

 

[1] 425 P.3d 175 (Alaska Ct. App. 2018).

Pulusila v. State

In Pulusila v. State,[1] the Alaska Court of Appeals held that in interpreting a condition of probation, a court must consider (1) whether a particular interpretation would ensure public safety or foster the defendant’s rehabilitation, and (2) how a reasonable person in the defendant’s place would understand the probation condition. In September 2016, Pulusila was on felony probation. As part of his probation, Pulusila was prohibited from having (1) any ammunition or explosives in his “custody, residence, or vehicles” or (2) any drug paraphernalia in his “residence or . . . any vehicle under his control.” After borrowing another man’s truck, Pulusila was pulled over by the Anchorage police. The police searched the truck and found a small explosive device, ammunition for a firearm and a methamphetamine pipe. Based on this discovery, the State petitioned the superior court to revoke Pulusila’s probation. Pulusila asserted that the truck was borrowed and he was unaware of the discovered items; he argued that because he had no mental culpability his probation should not be suspended. The superior court rejected this argument, applied strict liability, and revoked Pulusila’s probation. The court of appeals reversed, explaining that a reasonable person in Pulusila’s circumstances would not understand the conditions of probation to allow revocation of probation for unknowing possession of prohibited items. The court further explained that because conditions of probation must be reasonably related to rehabilitating an offender or protecting the public, ambiguous conditions should be given a meaning to further those purposes. The court found there was no clear public benefit to using a strict liability standard. Reversing the lower court, the court of appeals held that in interpreting a condition of probation, a court must evaluate (1) whether a particular interpretation would ensure public safety or foster the defendant’s rehabilitation and (2) how a reasonable person in the defendant’s place would understand the probation condition.

 

 

[1] 425 P.3d 175 (Alaska Ct. App. 2018).