Criminal contempt for violating a personal protection order (PPO); Whether the defendant had a right to a jury trial; Brandt v. Brandt; MCR 3.708(H)(1); Cross Co. v. UAW of Am., Local 155; Bloom v. State of IL; People v. Antkoviak; "Plain error" review; People v. Carines; Sufficiency of the evidence; In re Contempt of Henry; MCL 600.2950(1)(g)
Holding that the defendant was not entitled to a jury trial during the contempt proceedings and that there was sufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding that he violated the terms of the PPO, the court affirmed the trial court's order finding him in criminal contempt for violating the PPO. Defendant's ex-girlfriend (petitioner) successfully petitioned for a PPO prohibiting him from stalking her, defined pursuant to MCL 750.411 to include behavior such as following her, appearing within her sight, interfering with her at her place of education, or engaging in conduct impairing her education relationship or environment. When defendant sought clarification of whether he had to run away if he saw her, the trial court specified that while he did not have to run, he should walk away. Soon after the PPO was issued, defendant pleaded guilty to violating it by trying to contact petitioner via a third party. The violation at issue here involved an incident at the community college where petitioner was a student. She was in class when she noticed defendant's two-year old son walk by her classroom. Approximately three minutes later, she saw defendant walk by the classroom with his hood up. He walked by two more times, each incident occurring three minutes apart. He knew where her class was located because he had escorted her to class during their relationship. Defendant testified that he was at the college to meet with an advisor and register for classes. After class, petitioner saw defendant and his son sitting in a room in the administrative building. When she then walked to student services, she saw defendant walk down the hall in the opposite direction. She then walked toward the math and science center. When she realized that defendant was walking to the same room, she asked him to turn around and leave. He ignored her request and went into the center. She entered the center and told him that since they were in the same room, he should leave. He again ignored her statements. She called the police. Defendant remained in the room, sitting at a computer. Petitioner could not concentrate on her work because she was scared and nervous. The court noted that contempt proceedings are governed by MCR 3.708, and "'MCR 3.708(H)(1) specifically explains that a respondent in a contempt proceeding is not entitled to a jury trial.'" The Michigan Supreme Court held in Cross that there is no constitutional right to a jury trial in criminal contempt proceedings. There is also no right to a jury trial pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, "as a penalty of 20 days in jail does not amount to a contempt proceeding for a serious offense." In a clear violation of the PPO, defendant walked by petitioner's classroom where he knew her to be. He did this three times. His stalking then escalated when he entered the math and science center despite petitioner approaching the same location. Then, despite her requests that he leave, he stayed in the room, causing her further anxiety and fear. This was sufficient evidence showing that he violated the PPO by interfering with petitioner at her place of education.
Full Text Opinion
State Bar of Michigan
306 Townsend St
Lansing, MI 48933-2012