An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Proced ure.

NO. COA03-451


Filed: 4 May 2004


v .                         Rowan County
                            Nos. 98 CRS 11899,
                                00 CRS 15032

    Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 7 October 2002 by Judge Larry G. Ford in Rowan County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 March 2004.

    Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General June S. Ferrell, for the State.

    Gilda C. Rodriguez, for defendant-appellant.

    CALABRIA, Judge.

    Rhonaca Lyee Woodruff (“defendant”) appeals judgments of the trial court revoking her probation and activating her suspended sentences of 23 to 37 months and 120 days in the North Carolina Department of Correction. We affirm.
    On 21 July 1999, defendant pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and driving while her license was revoked. Defendant's cases were consolidated for judgment. She received a suspended sentence of 23 to 37 months' imprisonment, and she was placed on supervised probation for a period of thirty-six months. As a special condition of probation, she was assigned to the intensive supervision program for six months.    On 16 February 2000, defendant's probation officer filed a violation report alleging defendant failed to fulfil her monetary condition of probation and tested positive for marijuana use on two occasions. The trial court found defendant violated the terms of her probation but modified and continued her probationary sentence with the additional condition that “[i]f defendant test positive for any illegal controlled substance, she is to be arrested and held on a $5,000.00 secure bond.”
    Defendant's probation officer filed a second violation report in August of 2001 alleging failure to fulfil the monetary condition of probation and additional positive drug tests for marijuana use. On 15 November 2001, the trial court found defendant violated the terms of her probation but continued probation with the additional special condition that defendant be placed on electronic house arrest for a period of ninety days.
    On 27 September 2001, defendant pled guilty to two charges of driving while her license was revoked. Defendant received a sentence of 120 days' imprisonment; however, the trial court suspended that sentence and placed defendant on supervised probation for a period of twenty-four months. The special conditions of defendant's probation included six months' electronic house arrest and a requirement to either remain employed full-time or enroll as a full-time student.
    Additional probation violation reports were filed, and the trial court continued defendant on probation. On 26 June 2002, two probation violation reports specifically alleged defendant violatedher probation relating to the electronic house arrest as well as the condition that she “obtain prior approval from the officer for, and notify the officer of, any change in . . . employment.” After hearing the evidence and arguments of the parties, the trial court found that each violation occurred and constituted a sufficient basis for the revocation of probation. The trial court revoked defendant's probation and activated her suspended sentences of (1) 23 to 37 months for the offenses of assault with a deadly weapon and driving while her license was revoked and (2) 120 days for the two subsequent offenses of driving while her license was revoked. Defendant appeals.
    “'[P]robation . . . comes as an act of grace to one convicted of, or pleading guilty to, a crime.'” State v. Tennant, 141 N.C. App. 524, 527, 540 S.E.2d 807, 808 (2000) (quoting State v. Duncan, 270 N.C. 241, 245, 154 S.E.2d 53, 57 (1967)). Thus, it has been noted that a probationer carries “'the keys to his freedom in his willingness to comply with the court's sentence.'” Id. (quoting State v. Robinson, 248 N.C. 282, 285, 103 S.E.2d 376, 379 (1958)). In a proceeding to revoke a defendant's probation, the State need only “'reasonably satisfy the judge in the exercise of his sound discretion that the defendant has violated a valid condition upon which the sentence was suspended.'” Id. (quoting Robinson, 248 N.C. at 285-86, 103 S.E.2d at 379). See also State v. Tozzi, 84 N.C. App. 517, 521, 353 S.E.2d 250, 253 (1987) (“Any violation of a valid condition of probation is sufficient to revoke [a] defendant's probation”). Defendant's violation of a condition ofprobation must be willful or without lawful excuse. State v. White, 129 N.C. App. 52, 57, 496 S.E.2d 842, 846 (1998). In reviewing a probation revocation order, an appellate court will not disturb the trial court's findings if they are supported by competent evidence, nor will it overturn the trial court's judgment based upon such findings unless there is a manifest abuse of discretion. Tennant, 141 N.C. App. at 527, 540 S.E.2d at 808.
    In the instant case, the trial court found defendant “willfully and without valid excuse” violated two conditions of probation and either violation would support revocation of defendant's probation. Relevant to our disposition of this case on appeal, the violation reports alleged and the trial court found that defendant violated a regular condition of probation by failing to
        “obtain prior approval from the officer for, and notify the officer of, any change in . . . employment” in that defendant was terminated from Wendy's Restaurant in Salisbury, North Carolina on Friday, 06-21-02 but still left her residence on 6-21-02, 06-22-02 and 06-23- 02 during the hours she was supposed to have been working at Wendy's had she not been terminated. Defendant did not notify her probation officer of her termination until Monday, 06-23-02 when questioned regarding same.

Defendant testified that she was employed at Wendy's but “just got tired of” it and terminated her employment on 21 June 2002. Nonetheless, defendant failed to obtain prior approval from or notify the probation officer of her change in employment pursuant to the conditions of her probation. On the contrary, from the time of defendant's termination until 23 June 2002, defendant continueda pattern of leaving her residence during the hours she had been designated to work at Wendy's. Defendant finally informed her probation officer of her termination only after the probation officer confronted her.
    Defendant concedes the veracity of these facts but argues “[t]he lapse in time between termination and notification in this case is so insignificant that it should not be the basis upon which a probation is revoked” and that she “was really not even given an opportunity to come forward on her own.” We disagree. First, the two days between the time defendant quit her job and the time she was confronted by her probation officer presented ample opportunity to “come forward on her own.” Second and more importantly, where, as here, a defendant chooses to terminate her employment it is particularly appropriate to comply with the probation condition to seek prior approval from a probation officer before a change in employment occurs. Certainly, defendant presented no objective reason necessitating her resignation; rather, defendant testified she “just got tired of [her job at] Wendy's.” Thus, the period of time between when the change in employment and when the notification occurred is not, under these facts, defendant's primary failing. Moreover, defendant acknowledged that probation officers had “better things to do with their time than to look after [her].” We perceive no abuse of discretion by the trial court in predicating revocation of defendant's probation on this ground.     Defendant argues in the alternative that, because defendant was employed at both Wendy's and Regis, her termination of employment at Wendy's did not trigger any duty on her part to notify her probation officer of a change in employment. This argument is unavailing. The condition of probation at issue expressly requires that defendant notify the officer of any change in employment. This condition is not activated solely when a defendant becomes unemployed but, rather, it is triggered when a change in employment occurs. It is undisputed that, when defendant was terminated from her position at Wendy's, such a change occurred. Accordingly, defendant was required to notify her probation officer, and defendant's argument to the contrary is without merit. Since the trial court did not abuse its discretion in revoking defendant's probation for violation of this condition, we need not address defendant's arguments pertaining to other alleged violations. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
    Judges McGEE and TYSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

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