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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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  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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