ILNews

COA reverses order of restitution to county

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A nurse practicing in Indiana without a license had her convictions of forgery and practicing nursing without a license upheld April 22, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the trial court order that she pay restitution to the county where she worked.

In Rebecca D. Lohmiller v. State of Indiana, No. 08A02-0710-CR-873, Lohmiller appealed her convictions and sentence for six counts of forgery and 21 counts of practicing nursing without a license. The court sentenced her to four years imprisonment with two years served on home detention and two years suspended to probation. She also was ordered to pay Carroll County $25,000 in restitution as a condition of probation.

Lohmiller moved to Indiana from Georgia with her husband in 1985. She was licensed to practice as a nurse in Georgia, but when she moved, she did not acquire an Indiana nursing license. Lohmiller claimed she was in the federal Witness Protection Program for a short stint before moving to Indiana and that she didn't apply for an Indiana license because she didn't want to draw attention to the fact that she had relocated. She said she dropped out of the program because it wouldn't provide protection to her future husband. Lohmiller began working in 1999 at the Carroll County Health Department and her job required her to have a valid Indiana nursing license. For four years, Lohmiller made excuses as to why she couldn't produce the document. During those years, Lohmiller signed her name as "Rebecca Lohmiller, RN, MSN" at least 27 times on documents such as tobacco settlement subcontracts and immunization records.

In August 2005, the state charged Lohmiller with forgery and practicing nursing without a license. Before she testified at trial, she made an offer to prove that she was in the Witness Protection Program.

The trial court ruled that Lohmiller could testify that she had been in the Witness Protection Program and, out of fear, had chosen not to get an Indiana nursing license, but she could not give the specific details of why she was in the program because they were irrelevant to her current case.

After retiring to deliberate, the jury sent two questions - one asking for a dictionary, and the other asking for a definition of "material fact" as it was used in two of the jury instructions. The trial court denied the jury's requests and the jury found Lohmiller guilty.

The trial court later denied her motion to vacate her convictions because of double jeopardy violations and sentenced her.

Lohmiller raised several issues on appeal including that the evidence presented was insufficient to sustain her forgery convictions, the trial court erred by denying the jury's request for a dictionary and by not answering its questions regarding jury instructions, and that the trial court committed fundamental error by ordering her to pay restitution to the county.

The appellate court unanimously upheld Lohmiller's convictions. Chief Judge John Baker also wrote the trial court didn't err when it allowed Lohmiller to only testify that she had been in the Witness Protection Program without giving details as to why she entered the program. Because the excluded part of her proffered testimony was irrelevant, the trial court didn't violate her right to testify.

In regards to Lohmiller's argument that the jury instructions contained a legal gap the court should have addressed in response to the jury's request for a definition of "material fact," the evidence she submitted to support this argument only included the text of jury instructions 19 and 20 - the two in question - and no other instructions.

Chief Judge Baker wrote that this stalled the court's effort to determine whether a legal gap existed, so the appellate court affirmed the trial court's decision to not further instruct the jury regarding the definition. The trial court also didn't err in denying the jury a dictionary because she cannot show she was prejudiced by the court's decision.

Finally, the Court of Appeals overturned the trial court order that Lohmiller pay restitution to Carroll County as a condition of her probation. Even though Lohmiller didn't object to the restitution order at the sentencing hearing, the trial court's order constitutes fundamental error. The state did not assert the county was a victim during the sentencing hearing nor did it offer any evidence to prove Lohmiller should be required to pay the $25,000 as a condition of her probation, or any evidence regarding the county's actual damages.

The appellate court reversed the trial court order of restitution to Carroll County and remanded with instructions that the trial court hold a hearing to determine the actual damages, if any, the county suffered as a result of Lohmiller's crimes.
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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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