A jury found appellant guilty of injury to a child and assessed punishment at ten years in prison, probated for ten years, and a non-probated ten thousand dollar fine. The trial court placed appellant on "zero tolerance" probation. (1) Four months after appellant was placed on probation, the State filed a motion to revoke alleging that appellant violated the terms and conditions of his probation first by failing to report to his probation officer for the month of November 1998, and second by failing to present written verification of employment for the month of October 1998. Appellant pled "true" to the first allegation and "not true" to the second allegation. The trial court, finding that appellant had violated the conditions of his "zero tolerance" probation, revoked his probation and sentenced him to ten years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division.
Appellant appealed the trial court's decision. Raising the issue for the first time on appeal, appellant argued that he was deprived of his liberty interests in remaining on probation without due process of law. (2) The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision. Hull v. State, 29 S.W.3d 602 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2000). We granted the State's petition in order to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that appellant did not waive his complaint regarding the trial court's "zero tolerance" probation even though appellant raised his complaint for the first time on appeal. (3) We hold that the Court of Appeals erred in so holding and consequently reverse its decision.
Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 33.1 provides in part that "as a prerequisite to presenting a complaint for appellate review," a timely request, objection or motion must be made and ruled upon by the trial court. This rule ensures that trial courts are provided an opportunity to correct their own mistakes at the most convenient and appropriate time-when the mistakes are alleged to have been made. See Vidaurri v. State, 49 S.W.3d 880, 886 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001); Aguilar v. State, 26 S.W.3d 901, 905-906 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000).
Appellant did not object to the "zero tolerance" policy until his direct appeal. He made no objection at the imposition of his conditions of probation, at which time the trial court admonished him that he would apply a policy of "zero tolerance." Neither did appellant object when his probation was revoked. The State argued before the Court of Appeals that appellant therefore waived any complaint about the trial court's "zero tolerance" policy.
The Court of Appeals rejected the State's contention. Hull, 29 S.W.3d at 606. The Court reasoned that because "zero tolerance" was not a listed condition in the judge's order, there was nothing to object to at the time of sentencing. The Court further stated that because the written probation conditions stated that a violation thereof "may result" in revocation, appellant was entitled to rely upon that representation rather than the court's stated "zero tolerance" policy. Finally, the Court stated appellant had no grounds on which to move to recuse the judge until after the judge actually applied the zero tolerance policy and revoked appellant's probation, at which time a recusal would have been worthless. Id.
The Court of Appeals erred in so holding. There was plenty to object to at the sentencing hearing. Contrary to the Court of Appeals' reasoning, the policy does not have to be one of the written conditions for the parties to be made aware of its existence and impact on the written conditions. A trial court's stated order does not have to be written to be binding or to have meaning. The policy was presented as the standard by which the written conditions would be administered by the court and violations viewed. The trial court's reference to it at the revocation hearing indicates that appellant was informed of the court's policy in no uncertain terms:
I told you when you got probation, if you violated your probation in any way, shape, or form I was going to revoke that probation. I am a man of my word, and I am going to carry out what I told you when I gave you this probation. You did not have an option at all to do anything other than every single rule in this probation every step of the way exactly as instructed by me and the probation department. . . . And I gave you every condition of probation that I could think of in order to ensure that you would be strictly monitored and that you would follow these rules, because I told you that you were under zero tolerance, which meant if you violated in any way, shape or form, you were going to be back here in an orange jumpsuit.
(Emphasis added). The record reflects that appellant understood the policy in this way. He was not confused by the court's admonishment in light of the written conditions. Appellant's testimony at the revocation hearing indicated an understanding and acceptance of the trial court's stated "zero tolerance" policy. As pointed out by Justice Taft, in dissent to the denial of en-banc review in the Court of Appeals:
This is not a case in which appellant, Danny Edward Hull, violated the terms and conditions of his probation and the trial court surprised appellant by suddenly springing a zero tolerance policy, saying "Gotcha!" The Panel Opinion's rendition of the trial court's remarks before revoking appellant's probation clearly shows that the trial court had admonished appellant at the time probation was assessed that any violation of even a single condition of his probation would result in revocation. Indeed, when appellant took the stand at the revocation hearing, the third question from his attorney was, "At the time that you were granted probation, you were aware that the Judge had placed you on what's called a zero tolerance probation?" Appellant answered that he knew that. The next question elicited that appellant knew what zero tolerance probation meant. Later, appellant's counsel repeated inquiries demonstrating that appellant understood what kind of probation the trial court had given him, and appellant acknowledged that he had taken the trial court seriously. Finally, appellant was asked what he wanted the trial court to do, and he said, "To take off zero tolerance and give me a chance."
Id. at 607 (Taft, J., dissenting from denial of en-banc review).
The record reflects that appellant understood the "zero tolerance" policy to be overriding and controlling. At the very least appellant could have objected to a discrepancy between the written conditions and the court's stated policy. The Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the written conditions of probation somehow excused appellant from objecting to the trial court's stated policy toward appellant's probation. Appellant was fully aware of the court's policy toward his probation and did not object. Appellant did not preserve the issue.
Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to that Court for consideration of appellant's remaining points of error.
Delivered: January 30, 2002
1. When appellant was placed on probation, the trial court admonished him that any
violation of a condition of his probation would result in revocation.
2. Appellant argued that "zero tolerance" probation is a violation of due process because it
represents a commitment to a predetermined outcome thereby precluding impartial consideration
of relevant evidence and the full range of punishment at a probation revocation hearing.
Moreover, as a result of this, appellant claimed that he was denied a revocation hearing and
sentencing by an impartial judge.
1. When appellant was placed on probation, the trial court admonished him that any violation of a condition of his probation would result in revocation.
2. Appellant argued that "zero tolerance" probation is a violation of due process because it represents a commitment to a predetermined outcome thereby precluding impartial consideration of relevant evidence and the full range of punishment at a probation revocation hearing. Moreover, as a result of this, appellant claimed that he was denied a revocation hearing and sentencing by an impartial judge.
In addition to challenging the constitutionality of "zero tolerance" probation, appellant
presented two other points of error. He alleged that the evidence presented at the revocation
hearing was insufficient to support the trial court's revocation of his probation. Appellant also
presented an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Since appellant's first point of error was
sustained by the Court of Appeals, it never addressed these other points.
3. We also granted review on the question of whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding
that the trial court abused its discretion in revoking appellant's probation. Due to our disposition
of the State's first argument, we need not address this other ground in this opinion and dismiss it
3. We also granted review on the question of whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the trial court abused its discretion in revoking appellant's probation. Due to our disposition of the State's first argument, we need not address this other ground in this opinion and dismiss it as moot.