Law School Case Brief
State v. Loomis - 2016 WI 68, 371 Wis. 2d 235, 881 N.W.2d 749
Although it cannot be determinative, a sentencing court may use a Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) risk assessment as a relevant factor for such matters as: (1) diverting low-risk prison-bound offenders to a non-prison alternative; (2) assessing whether an offender can be supervised safely and effectively in the community; and (3) imposing terms and conditions of probation, supervision, and responses to violations. A COMPAS risk assessment may be used to enhance a judge's evaluation, weighing, and application of the other sentencing evidence in the formulation of an individualized sentencing program appropriate for each defendant. COMPAS is merely one tool available to a court at the time of sentencing and a court is free to rely on portions of the assessment while rejecting other portions.
The State contends that defendant Loomis was the driver in a drive-by shooting. It charged defendant with five counts, all as a repeater: (1) First-degree recklessly endangering safety (PTAC); (2) Attempting to flee or elude a traffic officer (PTAC); (3) Operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent; (4) Possession of a firearm by a felon (PTAC); (5) Possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle (PTAC). Loomis denied involvement in the drive-by shooting, but he waived his right to trial and entered a guilty plea to only two of the less severe charges, attempting to flee a traffic officer and operating a motor vehicle without the owner's consent. The plea agreement stated that the other counts would be dismissed but read in. After accepting Loomis's plea, the circuit court ordered a presentence investigation. The Presentence Investigation Report (PSI) included an attached Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) risk assessment. A COMPAS report consists of a risk assessment designed to predict recidivism and a separate needs assessment for identifying program needs in areas such as employment, housing and substance abuse. Loomis's COMPAS risk scores indicated that he presented a high risk of recidivism on all three bar charts. At sentencing, the State argued that the circuit court should use the COMPAS report when determining an appropriate sentence. In addition to the COMPAS assessment, the circuit court considered the read-in charges at sentencing. Loomis filed a motion for post-conviction relief requesting a new sentencing hearing. He argued that the circuit court's consideration of the COMPAS risk assessment at sentencing violated his due process rights. Loomis further asserted that the circuit court erroneously exercised its discretion by improperly assuming that the factual bases for the read-in charges were true. In denying the post-conviction motion, the circuit court explained that it used the COMPAS risk assessment to corroborate its findings and that it would have imposed the same sentence regardless of whether it considered the COMPAS risk scores. Loomis appealed
Did the circuit court's consideration of a COMPAS risk assessment violate Loomis' constitutional right to due process?
The appellate court held that the use of COMPAS risk assessment at sentencing did not violate Loomis' right to due process because he failed to show that the sentencing court actually relied on gender as a factor in sentencing; in addition to the COMPAS risk assessment, the seriousness of the crime and his criminal history both bore a nexus to the sentence imposed. The circuit court's consideration of the read-in charges was not an erroneous exercise of discretion; the circuit court advised defendant of the proper legal standard regarding how it would consider the read-in offenses at sentencing, it allowed both sides to debate the merits of the charges, and it ultimately believed the State's version of events was more credible.
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