ILNews

COA reverses order of restitution to county

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A nurse practicing in Indiana without a license had her convictions of forgery and practicing nursing without a license upheld April 22, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court order that she pay restitution to the county where she worked.

In Rebecca D. Lohmiller v. State of Indiana, No. 08A02-0710-CR-873, Lohmiller appealed her convictions and sentence for six counts of forgery and 21 counts of practicing nursing without a license. The court sentenced her to four years imprisonment with two years served on home detention and two years suspended to probation. She also was ordered to pay Carroll County $25,000 in restitution as a condition of probation.

Lohmiller moved to Indiana from Georgia with her husband in 1985. She was licensed to practice as a nurse in Georgia, but when she moved, she did not acquire an Indiana nursing license. Lohmiller claimed she was in the federal Witness Protection Program for a short stint before moving to Indiana and that she didn't apply for an Indiana license because she didn't want to draw attention to the fact that she had relocated. She said she dropped out of the program because it wouldn't provide protection to her future husband. Lohmiller began working in 1999 at the Carroll County Health Department and her job required her to have a valid Indiana nursing license. For four years, Lohmiller made excuses as to why she couldn't produce the document. During those years, Lohmiller signed her name as "Rebecca Lohmiller, RN, MSN" at least 27 times on documents such as tobacco settlement subcontracts and immunization records.

In August 2005, the state charged Lohmiller with forgery and practicing nursing without a license. Before she testified at trial, she made an offer to prove that she was in the Witness Protection Program.

The trial court ruled that Lohmiller could testify that she had been in the Witness Protection Program and, out of fear, had chosen not to get an Indiana nursing license, but she could not give the specific details of why she was in the program because they were irrelevant to her current case.

After retiring to deliberate, the jury sent two questions - one asking for a dictionary, and the other asking for a definition of "material fact" as it was used in two of the jury instructions. The trial court denied the jury's requests and the jury found Lohmiller guilty.

The trial court later denied her motion to vacate her convictions because of double jeopardy violations and sentenced her.

Lohmiller raised several issues on appeal including that the evidence presented was insufficient to sustain her forgery convictions, the trial court erred by denying the jury's request for a dictionary and by not answering its questions regarding jury instructions, and that the trial court committed fundamental error by ordering her to pay restitution to the county.

The appellate court unanimously upheld Lohmiller's convictions. Chief Judge John Baker also wrote the trial court didn't err when it allowed Lohmiller to only testify that she had been in the Witness Protection Program without giving details as to why she entered the program. Because the excluded part of her proffered testimony was irrelevant, the trial court didn't violate her right to testify.

In regards to Lohmiller's argument that the jury instructions contained a legal gap the court should have addressed in response to the jury's request for a definition of "material fact," the evidence she submitted to support this argument only included the text of jury instructions 19 and 20 - the two in question - and no other instructions.

Chief Judge Baker wrote that this stalled the court's effort to determine whether a legal gap existed, so the appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision to not further instruct the jury regarding the definition. The trial court also didn't err in denying the jury a dictionary because she cannot show she was prejudiced by the court's decision.

Finally, the Court of Appeals overturned the trial court order that Lohmiller pay restitution to Carroll County as a condition of her probation. Even though Lohmiller didn't object to the restitution order at the sentencing hearing, the trial court's order constitutes fundamental error. The state did not assert the county was a victim during the sentencing hearing nor did it offer any evidence to prove Lohmiller should be required to pay the $25,000 as a condition of her probation, or any evidence regarding the county's actual damages.

The appellate court reversed the trial court order of restitution to Carroll County and remanded with instructions that the trial court hold a hearing to determine the actual damages, if any, the county suffered as a result of Lohmiller's crimes.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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