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Plea agreement did not give court ability to impose restrictive probation

June 30, 2014

A trial court went too far when it accepted a plea agreement then imposed a one-year term in work release as a condition of probation, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

Dexter Berry entered into a plea agreement, pleading guilty to a Class B felony burglary and several lesser offenses. Under the terms of the agreement, the court would impose a 10-year executed sentence and could require probation beyond the 10 years.

The court sentence Berry to a total of 15 years. Ten years were to be executed in prison and five years suspended with two of those years served on probation. Further, the court ordered Berry to spend the first year of his probation on work release.

After the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed by memorandum the decision, Berry sought transfer. The issue was whether the terms of his plea agreement gave the court the discretion to impose a restrictive placement as a condition of his probation.

The Indiana Supreme Court found Berry’s plea agreement leaves all aspects of the sentence to the discretion of the court. However, while Berry’s agreement grants the court the ability to determine where the defendant will serve his executed sentence, it is silent as to the court’s ability to impose any restrictive placement for probation.   

“With no clear grant of such authority in the agreement itself, no indication that any of the parties understood the plea agreement to confer such discretion, and a specific provision that implies the absence of discretion over the placement of Defendant’s probation, we must conclude that the trial court lacked authority to impose a punitive placement for Defendant’s probation,” Justice Loretta Rush wrote in Dexter Berry v. State of Indiana, 49S04-1406-CR-416.

Chief Justice Brent Dickson along with Justices Steven David and Mark Massa concurred. Justice Robert Rucker concurred in result.

 
 

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