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COA reverses sentencing on grounds it exceeded statutory maximum

July 27, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a defendant that her sentence for a Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana exceeded the statutory maximum and remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing.

After a search of her home in July 2010, Kathleen Peterink was charged with possession of cocaine or narcotic drug as a Class D felony and possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor. She pleaded guilty to the second count and the state dismissed the first.

On Nov. 1, 2011, the trial court in Noble County sentenced Peterink to one year of imprisonment, suspended to probation. As a special condition of probation, Peterink had to serve six months in home detention for which she would not receive good time credit.

 Peterink argued that her sentence exceeded the statutory maximum for a Class A misdemeanor. She cited Jennings v. State in support of her view that the trial court gave her a two-year sentence by sentencing her to one year suspended and one year probation.

The state did not challenge Peterink’s reliance upon Jennings but asked the court to revisit the issue addressed by Jennings with regard to misdemeanor sentencing.

Noting that Jennings holds the term of imprisonment to include both the executed and suspended portions of a sentence, the court agreed with Peterink. It reversed the sentence imposed by the trial court and remanded for resentencing.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Michael Barnes stated he would not follow the Jennings holding. He wrote that Peterink’s sentence does not exceed the statutory maximum, saying such an interpretation would “fundamentally disrupt the sentencing practices of trial courts.”  

The court also reversed the trial court’s order that Peterink serve six months of home detention without receiving good-time credit. Citing an ambiguity in the state code, the court ruled that a “fair reading of the statutes taken together” leads to Peterink being entitled to good time credit.


 

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