Court rules on consecutive enhancements issue

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Consecutive habitual offender enhancements are improper, whether the enhancements arise from separate trials on unrelated charges or separate trials on related charges, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled yesterday in two opinions.

The high court addressed whether in Byron K. Breaston v. State, No. 20S04-0810-CR-561, a defendant who committed a crime that resulted in a second habitual offender enhancement being imposed before he was discharged from his first crime could have multiple consecutive habitual offender enhancements.

Acknowledging Byron K. Breaston's case differs from caselaw on the matter - Starks v. State, 523 N.E.2d 735, 737 (Ind. 1988), and Smith v. State, 774 N.E.2d 1021, 1024 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), which ruled imposing consecutive habitual offender enhancements to be improper - the Supreme Court held the language of Indiana Code Section 35-50-1-2(d) doesn't expressly authorize multiple habitual offender enhancements to be imposed consecutively.

Breaston was sentenced in November 2004 to three years for felony escape, enhanced by four and one-half years for being a habitual offender, for not returning to his work release program. Several weeks later he was sentenced to three years for a theft conviction, which was enhanced by four and one-half years due to another habitual offender finding. The sentences and habitual offender enhancements were ordered to be served consecutively.

"Under Indiana law, a trial court cannot order consecutive habitual offender sentences," wrote Justice Frank Sullivan. "This holds true whether the concurrent enhanced sentence is imposed in a single proceeding or in separate proceedings."

In John D. Farris v. State of Indiana, No. 02S03-0904-PC-181, John Farris had consecutive habitual offender enhancements imposed following separate trials on related charges. Because his counsel didn't object to the imposition of consecutive habitual offender enhancements, and his sentence was improperly enhanced by 30-years, the Supreme Court ruled Farris is entitled to post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel.

Farris was convicted of robbery and then separately of murder and felony aggravated battery; he was found to be a habitual offender at each trial. His robbery sentence was enhanced by 30 years and his murder sentence was enhanced for 30 years for a total of 155 years.

The post-conviction court didn't find Farris' trial counsel to be ineffective for failing to oppose the imposition of the consecutive enhancements. Precedent established by Seay v. State, 550 N.E.2d 1284, 1289 (Ind. 1990), held the state is barred from seeking multiple, pyramiding habitual offender sentence enhancements by bringing successive prosecutions for charges that could have been consolidated for trial, Justice Sullivan wrote. The post-conviction court and the Indiana Court of Appeals both misapplied Seay.

Seay was decided seven years before Farris was convicted and his attorney was guilty of deficient performance for not moving to dismiss the habitual offender allegation filed with the murder and battery charges, wrote the justice.

In Breaston, the Supreme Court remanded to the trial court to order the habitual offender enhancements to be served concurrently and to re-sentence him accordingly. In Farris, the case was remanded to the post-conviction court to vacate his second enhancement in accordance with the opinion.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals in all other respects in both cases.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues