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Judges differ on pretrial credit award

June 12, 2009

Each judge on an Indiana Court of Appeals panel weighed in with a separate opinion as to how much pretrial credit time a defendant, who pleaded guilty to one charge - other charges were dismissed - is entitled to, or if he is entitled to any time at all.

Chief Judge John Baker, and Judges Edward Najam and Cale Bradford authored separate opinions on the issue in Keland L. Brown v. State of Indiana, No. 34A05-0812-CR-716.

Keland Brown was arrested March 6, 2008, on various dealing, possession, and false informing charges. While he was in jail on those charges, the state filed four additional charges against him and "arrested" him April 10 on those charges. He remained in jail until his October 15 sentencing hearing, at which he pleaded guilty to dealing in cocaine as a Class B felony, one of the four charges added April 10. In exchange for the guilty plea, the state dismissed all the other pending charges and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Judge Najam, who authored the lead opinion, believed Brown was entitled to credit time from April 10 to October 15, the day of his sentencing hearing. He cited Dolan v. State, 120 N.E.2d 1364, 1372 (Ind. Ct. App. 1981), and Stephens v. State, 735 N.E.2d 278, 284, (Ind. Ct. App. 2000), to support his decision.

"Here, while some of those charges - and the credit time accrued against those charges - were dismissed pursuant to the plea agreement, Brown nonetheless still accrued credit time towards his eventual sentence from April 10 to October 15. The trial court erred in not awarding Brown credit for that period of time served," Judge Najam wrote.

Judge Kirsch opined that when a trial court is sentencing pursuant to a plea agreement that resolves multiple charges, including the charge for which the defendant is being held in jail, that credit time should be accorded against the sentence ultimately imposed absent any provision in the plea agreement to the contrary.

Chief Judge Baker wrote that Dewees v. State, 444 N.E.2d 332, 332 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983), which ruled Dewees wasn't entitled to any credit which may have accrued on a separate charge, was instructive to Brown's situation. Combining the decision in Dewees, with the rule that credit is to be applied for confinement time that is a "result of the criminal charge for which sentence is being imposed," the chief judge believed the trial court properly denied Brown's request for pretrial credit time.

The judges did unanimously agree that the trial court didn't abuse its discretion by not identifying Brown's guilty plea as a mitigating factor during sentencing and that his sentence is appropriate under Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B).

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