ILNews

COA reverses sentencing on grounds it exceeded statutory maximum

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with a defendant that her sentence for a Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana exceeded the statutory maximum and remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing.

After a search of her home in July 2010, Kathleen Peterink was charged with possession of cocaine or narcotic drug as a Class D felony and possession of marijuana as a Class A misdemeanor. She pleaded guilty to the second count and the state dismissed the first.

On Nov. 1, 2011, the trial court in Noble County sentenced Peterink to one year of imprisonment, suspended to probation. As a special condition of probation, Peterink had to serve six months in home detention for which she would not receive good time credit.

 Peterink argued that her sentence exceeded the statutory maximum for a Class A misdemeanor. She cited Jennings v. State in support of her view that the trial court gave her a two-year sentence by sentencing her to one year suspended and one year probation.

The state did not challenge Peterink’s reliance upon Jennings but asked the court to revisit the issue addressed by Jennings with regard to misdemeanor sentencing.

Noting that Jennings holds the term of imprisonment to include both the executed and suspended portions of a sentence, the court agreed with Peterink. It reversed the sentence imposed by the trial court and remanded for resentencing.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Michael Barnes stated he would not follow the Jennings holding. He wrote that Peterink’s sentence does not exceed the statutory maximum, saying such an interpretation would “fundamentally disrupt the sentencing practices of trial courts.”  

The court also reversed the trial court’s order that Peterink serve six months of home detention without receiving good-time credit. Citing an ambiguity in the state code, the court ruled that a “fair reading of the statutes taken together” leads to Peterink being entitled to good time credit.


 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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