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Advisory sentence not sentencing starting point

May 20, 2009

A man appealing his 15-year sentence for rape made a "novel" argument in his brief: the trial court should have started its calculation of his sentence using the advisory sentence of 10 years instead of using the midpoint of 13 years.

In Ryan Richardson v. State of Indiana, No. 84A04-0811-CR-654, Ryan Richardson's argument in his appeal of his sentence "highlighted an oddity within Indiana's revised sentencing statutes" that hadn't been addressed yet by the state appellate courts, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

Richardson pleaded guilty to rape and sexual misconduct with a minor; his victim was his 15-year-old niece. The trial court merged the convictions and considered it to really be one crime of rape. The trial judge informed Richardson of the maximum of 20 years, minimum of six years and advisory sentence of 10 years for the rape conviction. The judge used the midpoint of 13 years as his starting point for sentencing. From the 13 years, the judge considered the mitigating and aggravating factors and tacked on two years as an enhancement due to Richardson's prior criminal record.

On appeal, Richardson contended the trial judge should have used the advisory sentence of 10 years as the starting point and added or subtracted time from that point. Judge Crone noted that the statutory sections that provide permissible sentences for Class A, B, C, or D felonies - with the exception of murder - don't have advisory sentences that are the mathematical midpoints between the maximum and minimum sentences. However, the fact the advisory sentences for those felonies don't equal the midway point, while strange, doesn't change the fact the "advisory sentence" is not a mandatory starting point, the judge wrote. A trial court isn't required to use the statutory advisory sentence or any other particular point as a starting point in its sentencing considerations.

The appellate judges reviewed Richardson's sentence and found it to be appropriate given the circumstances of the case.

In a lengthy footnote, Judge Crone wrote that the rape and sexual misconduct with a minor charges didn't have to merge and the facts in the probable cause affidavit outlined two distinct acts.

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