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Judges uphold OWI conviction

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Even though a man who was temporarily found incompetent was detained in a facility for a period longer than his sentence would have been if he was convicted of Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of his motion to dismiss the charge. The appellate court held the state had a substantial interest in pursuing the conviction because the man’s license would be suspended if convicted.

Darren Matlock was convicted of Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated. While the charge was pending, he was found to be incompetent to stand trial and was transferred to the custody of the Richmond State Hospital. Matlock’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges arguing that Matlock had been in custody for a period beyond the maximum sentence he could receive if convicted. Shortly after the motion was filed, Matlock had regained competency and was released.

The motion was denied and he was found guilty. The trial court sentenced him to time served and ordered a 180-day suspension of his driver’s license.

In Darren Matlock v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1006-CR-609, the judges relied on State v. Davis, 898 N.E.2d 281, 285 (Ind. 2008), to uphold the denial of the motion to dismiss, citing a part of that opinion in which the Indiana Supreme Court justices noted there could be a number of instances in which the state would have a legitimate interest in determining someone’s guilt or innocence even though that person was found incompetent to stand trial and had been detained for longer than she could be if convicted. The justices gave the examples of requiring registration as a sex offender or to prove status as a habitual traffic offender.

In Davis, the justices dismissed the felony offense against a woman who the court found would never regain competency to stand trial. She had been confined to a state hospital longer than the maximum period of time she could have been sentenced for the offense, so the justices found this violated her Due Process rights. They also noted the state didn’t prove that its interests outweighed Davis’ substantial liberty interest.  

Many criminal convictions have collateral consequences aside from incarceration, including impacting voting rights. But the judges declined to recognize that any potential collateral consequence is sufficient to allow the state to proceed with prosecution of a long-term incompetent individual who had already been detained in excess of the maximum sentence for the particular crime.

“We are reluctant to recognize such a rule, and believe that the ‘substantial interests’ alleged by the State to allow an exception to Davis must be interests directly related to the particular nature of the offense with which the accused is charged,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

In Matlock’s case, an OWI conviction requires the suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license for a period of time. His conviction could also form the basis of a habitual substance offender sentence enhancement in the future or enhance a future OWI conviction to a Class D felony, wrote the judge.

“… where the possibility exists that a defendant accused of OWI may at some point in the future regain competency and be released back into society, which release also may include the defendant driving, the State may pursue an OWI conviction even if the defendant’s incompetency caused he or she to be detained for a period in excess of the maximum possible sentence for OWI. Here, Matlock’s incompetency never was alleged to be, and in fact was not, permanent. As such, the State was not precluded from pursuing an OWI conviction against Matlock,” he wrote.

The judges also affirmed there was sufficient evidence to convict Matlock.
 

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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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