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COA: Man didn't waive right to appeal sentence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2009
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Because the trial court may have made confusing remarks at a man's guilty plea hearing indicating he "may" have waived the right to appeal, only to later inform him of his right to appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded the defendant hadn't waived that right to appeal. The appellate court did affirm the defendant's 30-year advisory sentence for dealing in cocaine, finding he failed to prove it was inappropriate.

In Luis Ruiz Bonilla v. State of Indiana, No. 20A05-0902-CR-85, the Court of Appeals found Bonilla's situation to fall somewhere in between Creech v. State, 887 N.E.2d 73, 75 (Ind. 2008), and Ricci v. State, 894 N.E.2d 1089 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), both of which dealt with whether a defendant waived his right to appellate review of a sentence based on conflicting remarks from judges stating the defendant may be able to appeal the sentence.

"Unlike Creech, here the trial court's advisement that Bonilla had the right to appeal occurred at the guilty plea hearing, which, as explained in Ricci, is significant," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. "But unlike Ricci, the trial court in this case acknowledged that Bonilla 'may' have waived the right to appeal his sentence."

Telling a defendant at his guilty plea hearing that he may have waived the right to appeal but then proceeding to advise him of the right to appeal is the precise scenario the Supreme Court warned against in Creech, when it emphasized the importance of avoiding confusing remarks in a plea colloquy, the judge continued.

In light of the contradicting and confusing information Bonilla received at his guilty plea hearing, and the fact he is not a native English speaker, the appellate court ruled he didn't waive his right to appeal his sentence.

But the Court of Appeals affirmed his advisory 30-year sentence for dealing in cocaine. Although he had received authorization to work here after entering the U.S. illegally, he failed to abide by the laws once he was here. He drove without a valid driver's license and had a misdemeanor conviction for criminal conversion. He was on probation for that conviction when he was arrested for dealing cocaine. Even though he held a steady job, and dealt cocaine because of a drug problem, his sentence is not inappropriate, wrote Judge Vaidik.
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