ILNews

COA rules on habitual-offender enhancement

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded a case involving the denial of a defendant's motion to correct an erroneous sentence. The court also considered whether the trial court dealt correctly with the defendant's habitual substance offender enhancement by treating it as a separate conviction and whether the trial court may properly suspend any portion of the sentence enhanced by the habitual substance offender finding.

In Joseph Bauer v. State of Indiana, 92A05-0704-PC-229, Bauer filed a motion to correct an erroneous sentence, which the trial court denied. Bauer pleaded guilty to three counts: Count I, Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated; Count III, Class D felony operating a motor vehicle after being adjudged a habitual traffic violator; and Count VI, habitual substance offender. Bauer was sentenced to three years for both Counts I and III to be served concurrently, and three years for Count VI, with one year executed and two years suspended, served consecutively, for a total of six years.

Bauer claimed in his motion to correct that the state failed to properly document the charges against him in violation of his constitutional rights, and that his counsel provided ineffective assistance. Judge Terry Crone wrote in the opinion that these claims are not the type of claims to be presented in a motion to correct an erroneous sentence, so the court affirmed the trial court's denial of his motion regarding these claims.

The state conceded the trial court erred in treating the habitual substance offender finding as a separate conviction. A habitual substance offender finding is not a separate crime but an enhancement of the sentence for the underlying crime to which it is attached, wrote Judge Crone. The court remanded with instructions to amend the sentencing order to show Bauer's habitual offender finding is attached to an underlying conviction and to enhance the sentence for that conviction accordingly.

Sua sponte, the court addressed the propriety of the trial court's suspension of part of Bauer's habitual substance offender enhancement. Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-2(a) allows for a court to suspend any part of a sentence for a felony, and subsection (b) lists the crimes for which a trial court may suspend that part of the sentence that is in excess of the minimum sentence. The court disagreed with the plain language of I.C. 35-50-2-10(f) that requires habitual offender enhancements to be fully executed, referring to Devaney v. State, 578 N.E.2d 386, 390 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), which held that an enhanced sentence imposed under I.C. 35-50-2-10 may not be suspended.

Judge Crone wrote that I.C. 35-50-2-10(f) is similar to other statutes governing sentences for underlying felonies, and the language of those statutes do not prevent such sentences from being suspended and the court "sees no reason to treat I.C. 35-50-2-10(f) differently."

The court noted that I.C. 35-50-2-2(c) provides that whenever a court suspends a felony sentence, it shall place the person on probation for a fixed period to end not later than the date that the maximum sentence that may be imposed for the felony will expire. Because of this, the trial court must place Bauer on probation during the time his sentence is suspended, wrote Judge Crone.
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  1. 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.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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