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Justices rule on sentence modification

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A conviction of a Class D felony that is later reduced to a Class A misdemeanor doesn’t prevent a trial court from modifying a sentence below the statutory minimum, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today in a matter of first impression. The prohibition of a sentence modification below the minimum is premised on a defendant who “has” a prior unrelated felony conviction.

In Julie Gardiner v. State of Indiana,  No. 08S02-0906-CR-277, Julie Gardiner appealed the trial court’s denial to modify her sentence for dealing in methamphetamine as a Class A felony in Carroll County. The trial court refused to sentence her below the statutory minimum of 20 years because of a prior unrelated felony. She had pleaded guilty in Hamilton County to possession with intent to manufacture, a Class D felony. That was later reduced to a Class A misdemeanor based on her successful completion of her probation terms. This was after she was sentenced in Carroll County.

Once her prior felony was reduced, the Carroll Circuit Court declined to reduce her sentence because at the time of her sentencing, the judgment in Hamilton County was still entered as a felony. The Carroll Circuit judge believed he was bound by the restrictions and limitations applicable at the time of the original sentence.

The Indiana Court of Appeals was divided in affirming the trial court.

The statute in question says “the court may suspend only that part of the sentence that is in excess of the minimum sentence” where “the crime committed was a Class A or Class B felony and the person has a prior unrelated felony conviction.”

The statute speaks in the present tense, but at the time she asked to have her sentence modified in Carroll County, Gardiner no longer had a prior unrelated felony conviction.

“The trial court declined to suspend Gardiner’s sentence below the statutory minimum of twenty years. On this narrow point we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion,” wrote Justice Robert Rucker. “To the extent however the trial court’s decision was influenced by its assumption that it had no discretion to sentence otherwise, the trial court erred. We therefore remand this cause to the trial court for further consideration consistent with this opinion.”
 

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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