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. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.