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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. If real money was spent on this study, what a shame. And if some air-head professor tries to use this to advance a career, pity the poor student. I am approaching a time that i (and others around me) should be vigilant. I don't think I'm anywhere near there yet, but seeing the subject I was looking forward to something I might use to look for some benchmarks. When finally finding my way to the hidden questionnaire all I could say to myself was...what a joke. Those are open and obvious signs of any impaired lawyer (or non-lawyer, for that matter), And if one needs a checklist to discern those tell-tale signs of impairment at any age, one shouldn't be practicing law. Another reason I don't regret dropping my ABA membership some number of years ago.

  2. The case should have been spiked. Give the kid a break. He can serve and maybe die for Uncle Sam and can't have a drink? Wow. And they won't even let him defend himself. What a gross lack of prosecutorial oversight and judgment. WOW

  3. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  4. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  5. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

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