The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the state Thursday that a woman’s Class D felony drunken-driving convictions are considered “crimes of violence” under Indiana law, so there was no error when the trial court imposed a seven-year consecutive sentence.
Wendy Thompson was drinking alcohol while driving along U.S. Highway 36 in Parke County when she rear-ended Tina Redman’s car, causing it to hit a Jeep Cherokee driving in the opposite direction. Redman had slowed down for an Amish wagon. The accident resulted in serious injuries to Redman, her daughter, and the two passengers in the Cherokee.
Thompson’s BAC was 0.25 and she also tested positive for benzodiazepines, for which she had a valid prescription. But the drug intensifies the effects of alcohol.
The state charged her with eight counts, but Thompson pleaded guilty to four Class D felony operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 causing serious bodily injury. She was sentenced to three years each for Counts I and II and 180 days each for Counts III and IV. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, for a total of seven years, with two years suspended to probation.
Thompson argued before the trial court and again on appeal that she couldn’t be sentenced to consecutive sentences longer than four years based on I.C. 35-50-1-2(c). This section says the total consecutive terms of imprisonment shall not exceed the advisory sentence for a felony one class higher than the most serious of the felonies for which a person has been convicted.
In Thompson’s case, this would be the advisory sentence of four years for a Class C felony. She would be correct as long as her crime is not considered a “crime of violence,” the appellate court held, finding her Class D felonies to qualify under this distinction. Thus, the maximum-sentence restriction does not apply.
The judges relied on the statutory citation next to the text of the offense under subdivision 15, “Operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury to another person (IC 9-30-5-4).” They believed the citation to the statute is evidence that the Legislature intended to include both crimes within the definition of a “crime of violence.”
The COA also upheld her sentence, noting the significant injuries the vehicle occupants suffered – and continue to deal with today – as well as Thompson’s inability to admit the extent of her problems with alcohol.
The case is Wendy Thompson v. State of Indiana, 61A01-1305-CR-207.