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COA: enhancement isn't an ex post facto violation

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The enhancement of a man’s conviction of operating a vehicle while intoxicated because of a prior OWI conviction did not constitute an ex post facto violation, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Monday. The man argued it was a violation because his prior conviction occurred before the enactment of the enhancement statute.

Joseph Simmons appealed his conviction of Class C felony OWI and the eight-year sentence handed down by Jennings Circuit Judge Jon W. Webster. The truck driven by Simmons was pulled over after a person called police believing the occupants of the truck may be drunk. When police pulled over Simmons’ truck, he had trouble standing, smelled of alcohol and refused the field sobriety tests. When he attempted to do some of them at the police station, he was unable to complete them and even commented “I can’t do that sober.” He blew a blood alcohol content of 0.19.

Simmons faced several charges relating to drinking and driving and was convicted on all counts except for a charge of driving while suspended. The judge merged all the OWI convictions with the conviction of Class C felony OWI with a prior conviction for OWI causing death.

In Joseph Simmons v. State of Indiana, No. 40A05-1101-CR-10, Simmons argued that the enhancement of his OWI conviction to a Class C felony, which is based on his prior conviction for OWI causing death, is an ex post facto violation because the enhancement statute was enacted after his conviction for OWI causing death. The appellate judges found Simmons case to be controlled by Funk v. State, 427 N.E.2d 1081 (Ind. 1981), a case in which the defendant claimed that the general habitual offender statute was an unconstitutional ex post facto law.

“Simmons is not being re-punished for his prior crime, nor has the penalty for his prior crime been enhanced. He is simply being punished as a recidivist based upon his most recent act of OWI. And he is being punished under the version of the statute which was effective at the time he committed his most recent OWI,” wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

The judges found sufficient evidence to support his convictions and that his sentence is appropriate given his criminal history. The judge pointed to Simmons light-hearted banter with police while taking his sobriety tests, which they found troubling given that Simmons has been convicted of OWI causing death.

“When Simmons killed another person as a result of his drunken driving, it should have been a life-altering experience for him. However, Simmons seems to have not altered his behavior at all. Simmons is a recidivist, lethal drunk driver whose behavior has obviously been undeterred by his prior contact with the criminal justice system. His prior convictions, as they relate to the current offense, reflect very poorly on his character,” wrote Mathias.  
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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