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COA split on whether judge can order community service in lieu of fines

February 15, 2013

Two judges on the Indiana Court of Appeals decided that a trial judge didn’t have statutory authority to order an indigent woman to perform community service instead of paying fines and costs of her case, ordering the court to address the issue of imposing fees and costs.

Amanda Vaughn agreed to plead guilty to Class A misdemeanor criminal trespass, and her plea gave Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown discretion as to fines and costs. The court found Vaughn to be indigent and ordered community service in lieu of fines and costs. She later sought the fine instead, which the judge imposed as $165 in costs and $10 in fines. But after Vaughn filed a motion to reconsider, the trial court vacated the order Vaughn pay and again ordered 40 hours of community service, but she would not be jailed for failing to perform the service.

Vaughn argued that the trial court didn’t have the authority under the plea agreement to impose community service. The Court of Appeals decided it had to determine whether ordering community service in lieu of fines and costs is statutorily authorized.

In Amanda Vaughn v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1207-CR-544, judges Michael Barnes and Patricia Riley found there to be a lack of statutory authority, finding the statutes the state cited in support of the judge to be irrelevant in this case. In remanding the case they reminded the trial court that the Indiana Supreme Court has held “when fines or costs are imposed upon an indigent defendant, such a person may not be imprisoned for failure to pay the fines or costs.”

Judge John Baker disagreed, believing the trial court may exercise its discretion by suspending fines and costs and that ordering Vaughn to perform community services instead was reasonable. He also disagreed with his colleagues that the statutes cited by the state don’t support the ability to impose community service instead of fines and costs.

 

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