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Supreme Court case may resolve conflicting misdemeanor probation readings

September 25, 2012

The Indiana Supreme Court will hear a case in which the Court of Appeals on rehearing noted conflicting interpretations of the maximum probation sentence for people convicted of misdemeanors.

The court accepted transfer of Joey Jennings v. State of Indiana 53A01-1010-CR-541. Jennings was convicted of a Class B misdemeanor for which he was sentenced to the maximum 180 days in prison with 30 days executed, 150 suspended and 360 days of probation.

The appeals court ruled, and affirmed unanimously on rehearing, that the sentence violated I.C. 35-50-3-1(b) (2004), which provides that when a court suspends any portion of a misdemeanor sentence, “it may place the person on probation . . . for a fixed period of not more than one (1) year, notwithstanding the maximum term of imprisonment for the misdemeanor. … However, the combined term of imprisonment and probation for a misdemeanor may not exceed one (1) year.”   

The appeals court held that “term of imprisonment” includes both the time executed and the suspended portion of a sentence, so Jennings’ probation could not exceed 185 days.

The state sought appeal to the Supreme Court, citing the court’s ruling in Smith v. State, 621 N.E.2d 325 (Ind. 1993). There, the justices ruled that a court may suspend a sentence in whole or part to place a defendant on probation so long as the combination of the executed sentence and probationary period do not exceed the maximum statutory sentence for an offense.

The Jennings case was the sole case to which the justices voted to grant transfer for the week ending Sept. 21. Transfer was denied in 17 cases. The transfer disposition list may be viewed here.

 

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