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Court grants transfer to clarify appeals by state

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The Indiana Supreme Court granted a transfer with opinion to address conflicting rulings regarding the state's ability to challenge the legality of a criminal sentence without first filing a motion to correct erroneous sentence. The high court held the state may challenge a criminal sentence by appeal without first filing the motion and that appeal doesn't have to happen within 30 days of the sentencing judgment.

The Supreme Court split 3-2 Tuesday in its decision in Samuel Hardley v. State of Indiana, No. 49S05-0905-CR-290, in which the state argued in its reply brief to Samuel Hardley's appeal of his theft, criminal confinement, and battery convictions that the trial court erroneously imposed concurrent sentences instead of consecutive sentences. Statute says consecutive sentences are mandatory when one crime is committed while on personal recognizance for another crime, which happened in the instant case.

The Court of Appeals ruled the state could challenge the sentence based on the doctrine of fundamental error and also declined to require the state to challenge the allegedly erroneous sentence within 30 days of the final judgment, which departs from the ruling in Hoggatt v. State, 805 N.E.2d 1281, 1284 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004). Hardley argued on appeal for transfer that the state waived any right to challenge his sentence because it failed to raise an objection in the trial court, didn't file a motion to correct erroneous sentence, and didn't raise the issue until cross-appeal.

The majority didn't agree with the 30-day deadline for the state to challenge a sentence by direct appeal, as was held in Hoggatt, nor did they extend the "facially erroneous" requirement in Robinson v. State, 805 N.E.2d 783 (Ind. 2004), to restrict efforts by the state to challenge an illegal sentence, wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

The high court held Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-15 also allows the state to challenge illegal sentences; the state's appellate sentence challenge, when the issue is a pure question of law, is an acceptable substantial equivalent to the motion to correct erroneous sentence; and an appellate challenge by the state doesn't have to be initiated in the trial court or commenced within 30 days of the judgment, wrote the justice.

Justices Theodore Boehm and Robert Rucker dissented in a separate opinion that the state should not be allowed to appeal an erroneous sentence without first raising the issue in the trial court. Justice Boehm wrote that he would follow the high court's ruling in Griffin v. State, 493 N.E.2d 439 (Ind. 1996), and require the state follow the procedure authorized in the ruling or pursue a motion to correct error under Indiana Trial Rule 59 to preserve its right to challenge a sentence on appeal.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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