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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. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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