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Appeals court splits on new sentence modification issue

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An inmate’s request for a sentence modification has divided the Indiana Court of Appeals, with the majority concluding that the 365-day period during which a trial court could grant a modification begins when someone is originally sentenced, not re-resentenced after a successful appeal.

In Nathan D. Hawkins v. State of Indiana, No. 79A02-1101-CR-100, Nathan Hawkins appealed the denial of his request for sentence modification. He was originally sentenced to 16 years in July 2009 after pleading guilty to child molesting. Hawkins appealed and the COA vacated the sentence, ordering a new 10-year sentence. The trial court issued the new sentence in April 2010, and in November 2010, Hawkins asked for the modification.

The trial court denied it because it was more than a year after he was originally sentenced and because the prosecutor didn’t approve a modification.

The majority affirmed in this first impression issue, citing Redmond v. State, 900 N.E.2d 40, 42-43 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), to hold that the 365-day period did not restart when Hawkins was re-sentenced. Judges Terry Crone and Edward Najam suggested that defendants who want to pursue both remedies should request a stay of the appeal provided by Appellate Rule 37 to allow the trial court to consider the motion for sentence modification.

Chief Judge Margret Robb dissented, believing that based on language in statute, the clock restarts when someone is re-sentenced. She also pointed out holes in the majority’s reasoning to use the stay procedure, such as if a defendant stays his appeal, the sentence is modified, and then he appeals that reduced sentence, which sentence is the appellate court to review?

She wants the Indiana Legislature to revisit the sentence modification statute – which is not clear on when the 365-day period is triggered – and make any amendments to provide a clear, workable rule.

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