COA rules on habitual-offender enhancement

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded a case involving the denial of a defendant's motion to correct an erroneous sentence. The court also considered whether the trial court dealt correctly with the defendant's habitual substance offender enhancement by treating it as a separate conviction and whether the trial court may properly suspend any portion of the sentence enhanced by the habitual substance offender finding.

In Joseph Bauer v. State of Indiana, 92A05-0704-PC-229, Bauer filed a motion to correct an erroneous sentence, which the trial court denied. Bauer pleaded guilty to three counts: Count I, Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated; Count III, Class D felony operating a motor vehicle after being adjudged a habitual traffic violator; and Count VI, habitual substance offender. Bauer was sentenced to three years for both Counts I and III to be served concurrently, and three years for Count VI, with one year executed and two years suspended, served consecutively, for a total of six years.

Bauer claimed in his motion to correct that the state failed to properly document the charges against him in violation of his constitutional rights, and that his counsel provided ineffective assistance. Judge Terry Crone wrote in the opinion that these claims are not the type of claims to be presented in a motion to correct an erroneous sentence, so the court affirmed the trial court's denial of his motion regarding these claims.

The state conceded the trial court erred in treating the habitual substance offender finding as a separate conviction. A habitual substance offender finding is not a separate crime but an enhancement of the sentence for the underlying crime to which it is attached, wrote Judge Crone. The court remanded with instructions to amend the sentencing order to show Bauer's habitual offender finding is attached to an underlying conviction and to enhance the sentence for that conviction accordingly.

Sua sponte, the court addressed the propriety of the trial court's suspension of part of Bauer's habitual substance offender enhancement. Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-2(a) allows for a court to suspend any part of a sentence for a felony, and subsection (b) lists the crimes for which a trial court may suspend that part of the sentence that is in excess of the minimum sentence. The court disagreed with the plain language of I.C. 35-50-2-10(f) that requires habitual offender enhancements to be fully executed, referring to Devaney v. State, 578 N.E.2d 386, 390 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), which held that an enhanced sentence imposed under I.C. 35-50-2-10 may not be suspended.

Judge Crone wrote that I.C. 35-50-2-10(f) is similar to other statutes governing sentences for underlying felonies, and the language of those statutes do not prevent such sentences from being suspended and the court "sees no reason to treat I.C. 35-50-2-10(f) differently."

The court noted that I.C. 35-50-2-2(c) provides that whenever a court suspends a felony sentence, it shall place the person on probation for a fixed period to end not later than the date that the maximum sentence that may be imposed for the felony will expire. Because of this, the trial court must place Bauer on probation during the time his sentence is suspended, wrote Judge Crone.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.