Case In Which Probation Revoked for Not Reporting to the Probation Office

In Commonwealth v. Cottle, 493 Pa. 377, 426 A.2d 598 (1981), the Court held, based on the particular facts of that case, that technical violations of probation were insufficient to support the trial court's revocation of probation and resentencing. In Cottle, the defendant voluntarily turned himself in to the authorities for his role in a robbery and was sentenced to jail, with immediate parole, and 5 years probation. Id., 426 A.2d at 599. Near the end of his probationary term, despite having no criminal convictions while on probation, his probation was revoked because he had stopped reporting to the probation office midway through his probationary term. Id. At his revocation hearing, the probation office recommended his probation be terminated and he be discharged because he had pursued an alcohol treatment program and secured permanent employment. Id. Nonetheless, he was sentenced to 2 1/2 to 5 years in jail, the maximum term for his robbery offense. Id. The Supreme Court held that the imposition of a sentence of total confinement after revocation violated the requirements of 42 Pa.C.S. 9771(c) (then 18 Pa.C.S. 1371(c)) because Cottle's probation already had achieved its rehabilitative purposes. Accordingly, the Court ordered resentencing. Id. at 602. The Supreme Court emphasized in Cottle that there was "nothing in the record to indicate that appellant was likely to commit a future crime if he was not imprisoned." Id. at 601. The Court further explained that "probation is a rehabilitative device to be used to assist the offender in his adjustment to life within society" and that Cottle "did in fact accomplish that which the probation was designed to achieve" by overcoming his alcohol problem and by finding gainful employment. Id. at 602.