COA: Man didn't waive right to appeal sentence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2009
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Because the trial court may have made confusing remarks at a man's guilty plea hearing indicating he "may" have waived the right to appeal, only to later inform him of his right to appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded the defendant hadn't waived that right to appeal. The appellate court did affirm the defendant's 30-year advisory sentence for dealing in cocaine, finding he failed to prove it was inappropriate.

In Luis Ruiz Bonilla v. State of Indiana, No. 20A05-0902-CR-85, the Court of Appeals found Bonilla's situation to fall somewhere in between Creech v. State, 887 N.E.2d 73, 75 (Ind. 2008), and Ricci v. State, 894 N.E.2d 1089 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), both of which dealt with whether a defendant waived his right to appellate review of a sentence based on conflicting remarks from judges stating the defendant may be able to appeal the sentence.

"Unlike Creech, here the trial court's advisement that Bonilla had the right to appeal occurred at the guilty plea hearing, which, as explained in Ricci, is significant," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. "But unlike Ricci, the trial court in this case acknowledged that Bonilla 'may' have waived the right to appeal his sentence."

Telling a defendant at his guilty plea hearing that he may have waived the right to appeal but then proceeding to advise him of the right to appeal is the precise scenario the Supreme Court warned against in Creech, when it emphasized the importance of avoiding confusing remarks in a plea colloquy, the judge continued.

In light of the contradicting and confusing information Bonilla received at his guilty plea hearing, and the fact he is not a native English speaker, the appellate court ruled he didn't waive his right to appeal his sentence.

But the Court of Appeals affirmed his advisory 30-year sentence for dealing in cocaine. Although he had received authorization to work here after entering the U.S. illegally, he failed to abide by the laws once he was here. He drove without a valid driver's license and had a misdemeanor conviction for criminal conversion. He was on probation for that conviction when he was arrested for dealing cocaine. Even though he held a steady job, and dealt cocaine because of a drug problem, his sentence is not inappropriate, wrote Judge Vaidik.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.