ILNews

Court orders new sentence for child support nonpayer

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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An Indiana Court of Appeals panel found itself today determining the legislature's intent in revising a statute on nonpayment of child support, an issue it describes as having little to no precedent.

Though its analysis ended with little answer, the appellate court applied the doctrine of amelioration to conclude a defendant should receive a lower class of felony on nonpayment of about $13,000 in child support from Class C to Class D.

The decision released today is Bobby Lee Turner, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 48A02-0610-CR-924, which reverses and remands a ruling by Madison Superior Judge Thomas Newman Jr.

Turner was ordered in 1992 to make weekly child support payments, but when he stopped paying in July 2000 he owed about $13,296. The state charged him with nonsupport of a dependent child, a Class C felony, but his trial was rescheduled and continued for six years until June 2006. He didn't appear at trial, was found guilty, and sentenced a month later to two years in-home detention and four years probation.

On appeal, Turner argued that his sentence should have been a Class D felony for three years because, by the time of his sentencing, the General Assembly had amended Indiana Code §35-46-1-5(a) in 2001 to require debts more than $15,000 be classified as a class C felony. Even though Turner didn't raise the issue previously and could be waived for review, the appellate judges decided to address the issue on its merits because of the little precedent on point.

The difference: a range of 6 months to 3 years for a Class D felony compared to the 2 to 8 years for a Class C felony.

"Here, there is no express language or saving clause in the statute to guide us as to whether or not the legislature intended defendants charged under the old law to be sentenced under the new law," the court wrote, citing that as one example to apply the revised statute.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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