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COA rejects claim overhaul of Criminal Code shows Class A felonies disproportionate

November 6, 2013

A defendant attempted to persuade the Indiana Court of Appeals that the Class A felony classifications for dealing or possession of cocaine are disproportionate by pointing to the recent revisions to the Criminal Code. The new criminal classifications and sentencing structure that take effect next year no longer include these crimes in the highest level of felonies.

Christopher Cross was convicted of several drug and weapons offenses as a result of his role in the sale of cocaine in Shelby County in 2006 about 120 feet from a youth center. He was originally sentenced to 50 years after being found to be a habitual offender. After a joint petition for post-conviction relief was filed by Cross and the state in January, he was resentenced to 38 years.

On appeal, Cross contended that the classification of his acts of dealing in cocaine and possession of cocaine as Class A felonies was disproportionate to the nature of his offenses and that he suffered certain double jeopardy violations.

The appellate judges disagreed with Cross that dealing in cocaine and possession of cocaine should not be classified as Class A felonies because the offenses lack the serious physical harm that is inherent in other Class A felony offenses. The judges also found Cross’ argument relating to the revision of the criminal code to be unpersuasive.

“Nothing in House Enrolled Act 1006 suggests that the overhaul of the criminal classifications and sentencing structure should apply retroactively. To the contrary, House Enrolled Act 1006 indicates that crimes committed before July 1, 2014, should be charged and sentenced pursuant to the old classifications and sentencing structure,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in Christopher Cross v. State of Indiana, 73A01-1303-CR-134.

There were not double jeopardy violations involving Cross’ conviction for Class C felony carrying a handgun without a license and the sentence enhancement imposed due to his firearm use during the commission of the offense of dealing in cocaine. The record contains independent evidence which shows he used the handgun during the commission of the act of dealing in cocaine instead of merely possessing the gun.

The judges ordered his conviction for Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license vacated because it is a lesser-included offense of the Class C felony conviction.

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