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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. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

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