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COA: Trial court to decide pre-sentencing educational credit time

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A trial court is the proper authority to determine credit if a defendant earns educational credit time prior to sentencing, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In David K. Murphy v. State of Indiana, No. 18A02-1002-CR-213, David Murphy appealed the trial court’s decision denying him educational credit time, arguing the trial court is the correct authority to determine whether to grant such credit for receiving his general educational development diploma prior to sentencing.

The state charged Murphy Aug. 19, 2008, with Class B felony aggravated battery and Class D felony strangulation. During his pre-trial confinement, he earned a GED. He also attended 21 church services, 38 GED classes, 10 parenting classes, and 16 Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous chemical dependency sessions. Murphy pleaded guilty Nov. 12, 2009, to Class B felony aggravated battery and the other charge was dismissed.

The trial court sentenced him Jan 7, 2010, to the Department of Correction for 8 years – 6 years executed and 2 years suspended. At sentencing, Murphy asked the court to grant him 6 months of educational time credit for receiving his GED. The court granted him pre-trial confinement credit time of 511 days for time served, with class I credit time for an additional 511 days. The court said Murphy could seek higher educational credit time at the DOC.

Murphy filed a motion Jan. 12, 2010, to correct error regarding his request for educational credit time, which the trial court denied, saying it did not have authority to consider the request until he exhausted his administrative remedies within the DOC.

However, Murphy argued the trial court is the proper authority to determine such credit time when a defendant completes an educational degree before sentencing.

Murphy relied on Tumbleson v. State, 706 N.E.2d 217 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), in which the court assumed that the trial court was the proper authority for determining whether the defendant was entitled to a sentence reduction for earning his GED while in custody pending trial.

The state’s reliance on Sander v. State, 816 N.E.2d 75 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), was misplaced in the instant case, the appellate court determined.

Sander is distinguishable because the defendant in that case completed his educational degree while serving his sentence in the Department of Correction. Here, Murphy completed his degree while in pre-trial confinement,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

The appellate court also noted the trial court is in a better position than the DOC to determine whether educational credit time should be granted for a degree earned prior to sentencing.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings.
 

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