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Burglary, criminal mischief sentences double jeopardy, split COA rules

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A man ordered to serve 18 years in prison will be resentenced after an Indiana Court of Appeals panel ruled Friday that his convictions of Class C felony burglary and Class A misdemeanor criminal mischief constituted double jeopardy.

The majority ordered the mischief conviction and sentence vacated in Thomas W. Oster, II v. State of Indiana, 84A05-1208-CR-437, but the ruling will not reduce the time Oster serves. He was sentenced to seven years on the burglary conviction and one year for the mischief charge served concurrently. A habitual offender adjudication enhanced the sentence 11 years.

Oster was arrested when he was found with fresh abrasions and cuts, and he was carrying a pouch with screwdrivers and a pair of pliers shortly after police responded to the sound of shattering glass and a break-in at the Large Ink printing and sign shop in Terre Haute. A man who rented studio space there and was inside at the time called 911 when he heard the disturbance, and a cellphone left near the scene of the burglary contained photos of Oster.

The state conceded the double-jeopardy violation, but Oster failed to persuade the marjority on his other arguments: that the state failed to present evidence to sustain the burglary conviction; that it failed to support t he habitual offender finding; and that the jury was erroneously instructed.  

“Common sense dictates that when one breaks into a retail business after-hours, it is more likely done with the intent to commit theft than, say, if one breaks into an empty warehouse,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge Elaine Brown. Bradford wrote that because Oster lived in a nearby mission, he had no need to seek alternate shelter on the January 2012 evening when the break-in occurred.

“Oster’s possession of burglary tools, the nature of the structure into which he broke, and the absence of any indication that he broke into Large Ink for a reason other than theft are independent evidentiary facts sufficient to sustain his burglary conviction.”

Judge Patricia Riley didn’t see it that way, though, and found the state failed to prove the intent to commit a felony element of a burglary charge, citing Freshwater v. State, 853 N.E.2d 941, 942 (Ind. 15 2006) and Justice v. State, 530 N.E.2d 295, 297 (Ind. 1988).

“Here, as in Freshwater and Justice, the State has failed to prove a specific fact that provides a solid basis to support a reasonable inference that Oster had the specific intent to commit a felony. The method by which Oster entered the building suggests nothing more than that he broke in,” Riley wrote. “… Except for the broken window, nothing in the business was disturbed. The fact that Oster was apprehended with two screwdrivers and a pair of pliers does not change this result.

“Where the State cannot establish intent to commit a particular underlying felony, criminal trespass is the appropriate charge. I would therefore reverse Oster’s burglary conviction.”
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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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