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COA rules trial court cannot exceed scope of plea agreement

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A man will have to serve his full sentence, but the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled since his plea agreement makes no mention of restitution, he will not have to pay.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence but reversed a restitution order in Adam Morris v. State of Indiana, 14A05-1209-CR-495.

Adam Morris was charged in October 2009 with Class C felony causing death while operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol equivalent of 0.08 or more. His fiancée, Jennifer Celeste, died of injuries she sustained when the ATV Morris was driving was involved in an accident with another ATV. A blood test later indicated Morris had a BAC of 0.158.

In July 2012, Morris agreed to plead guilty to the lesser included offense of Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated. The agreement noted he would be sentenced at the discretion of the court, but it made no mention of restitution.

Subsequently, the trial court sentenced Morris to a term of one year, full executed. It also ordered Morris to pay $14,972.45 to Celeste’s family as restitution related to her funeral expenses.

Morris appealed, in part, challenging the restitution order. He asserted the order improperly applies to the Class C felony charge that was dismissed.

In considering Morris’ argument, the COA pointed to a “more fundamental problem.” Specifically, the plea agreement made no mention of whether the defendant could be ordered to pay restitution.

The COA reversed the order that Morris pay, ruling that when a plea agreement is silent on the issue of restitution, a trial court may not order the defendant to pay as part of the sentence. Such an order would exceed the scope of the plea agreement.
 
 

 

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