COA: Man's sentence could be increased

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The Indiana Court of Appeals determined the recent ruling by the state's highest court regarding upward sentence revisions was applicable to a defendant's sentence. The appellate court declined to revise his sentence, however, because the man's brief was filed before the Indiana Supreme Court decided McCullough.

In Billy Atwood v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0809-CR-844, Billy Atwood appealed his convictions of possession of paraphernalia, operating a motor vehicle while privileges are suspended, and possession of cocaine. The state cross-appealed the trial court erred in granting Atwood permission to file a belated appeal.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the permission to file the belated appeal and affirmed Atwood's convictions based on sufficient evidence. The appellate court also found the trial court didn't commit reversible error by giving an improper instruction informing the jury of defenses available to a defendant charged with possession of cocaine with 1,000 feet of a school over Atwood's objection.

Atwood also appealed his 12-year sentence for his Class B felony conviction of possession of cocaine, claiming it was inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and his character. The state, in response to Atwood's brief that was filed before the Feb. 10, 2009, decision in McCullough v. State, 900 N.E.2d 745, 746 (Ind. 2009), argued Atwood's sentence was unduly lenient. The state cited McCullough for support of revising Atwood's sentence upward.

Under McCullough, when a defendant requests appellate review and revision of his criminal sentence, the reviewing court may affirm, reduce, or increase the sentence, and announced the Supreme Court's view of the procedural posture necessary for the state to seek an increase in a sentence, wrote Judge James Kirsch. That ruling also held the state couldn't initiate review of a sentence on appeal or cross-appeal, but was restricted to making the argument in response to a request for a sentence revision initiated by the defendant.

Using Smylie v. State, 823 N.E.2d 679, 690-691 (Ind. 2005), the appellate court determined McCullough could apply to Atwood's case even though the ruling came down after Atwood filed his appeal.

In the instant case, since Atwood appealed his sentence, it is open for the appellate court to increase it. However, because his brief was filed before McCullough was decided, the Court of Appeals was unable to say with confidence Atwood would have raised the issue regarding the appropriateness of his sentence had he known it could be increased, wrote Judge Kirsch. As such, the appellate court declined the state's invitation to reduce the sentence upward.

The Court of Appeals did affirm his 12-year sentence, which included a two-year enhancement, finding it to be appropriate given his criminal history.


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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.