Supreme Court Extends Abuse of Discretion Standard to Sentencing Decisions Related to Probation

November 27, 2012

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the three-year sentences for Christine Caudle by applying the abuse of discretion standard of review recently adopted in State of Tennessee v. Susan Renee Bise.

In February of 2010, Caudle pled guilty to felony charges of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon and theft of merchandise over $500, stemming from a 2008 incident in which Caudle concealed store merchandise and attacked a JCPenney security employee.  After imposing sentence, the trial court denied probation. A majority panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals declined to conduct a de novo review of the sentences because Caudle had failed to include in the record a transcript of the hearing on her guilty pleas.

On further appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that when a record does not include the transcript of a guilty plea hearing, the Court of Criminal Appeals should determine on a case-by-case basis whether the record of the proceedings is sufficient for meaningful appellate review.  After finding that the record in this instance was sufficient for a meaningful review even without the missing transcript, the Court affirmed the sentences and the denial of probation, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretionary authority.

To read the State of Tennessee v. Christine Caudle opinion authored by Chief Justice Gary R. Wade, click here.