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Court rules on suspended sentence issue

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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges ruled on an issue that has generated a split of opinion among them: whether a fully executed sentence is equivalent to a sentence of equal length but partially suspended to probation for purposes of review under Appellate Rule 7(B).

In Christopher Jenkins v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-0812-CR-711, the appellate court unanimously disagreed with its colleagues who concluded that the two sentences are equivalent for purposes of an appropriateness challenge. Christopher Jenkins was sentenced to eight years, with six suspended and only two of those suspended to probation for Class C felony possession of cocaine and Class D felony methamphetamine.

He argued his sentence was inappropriate in light of the nature of his offenses and his character, and that his sentence must be treated as a "maximum" sentence for purposes of App. R. 7(B).

Most defendants would gladly accept a partially suspended sentence over a fully executed one of equal length, wrote Judge Cale Bradford. Even though the imposition of a suspended sentence leaves open the possibility that a person will be incarcerated for some period before being released from his or her penal obligation, whether or not the suspended time is eventually served depends on the actions of the defendant.

"In a sense, an eight-year sentence with two years executed and two years suspended to probation is a two-year sentence with an option for two more, the exercise of which option is entirely up to the defendant," he wrote. "In the end, we believe all would agree that, all else being equal, a two-year executed sentence is less harsh than an eight-year executed sentence. It is just as clear that an eight-year sentence with six years suspended, two of those to probation, lies somewhere in between, and we treat it as such for purposes of Rule 7(B) review."

Although the appellate court wasn't aware of any Indiana Supreme Court cases directly on this point, it used Hole v. State, 851 N.E.2d 302, 304, (Ind. 2006), Mask v. State, 829 N.E.2d 932, 936 (Ind. 2005), and Buchanan v. State, 767 N.E.2d 967, 973 (Ind. 2002), to support its view.

The Court of Appeals affirmed Jenkins' convictions and sentence, but reversed the order he pay $55 in restitution to the police officer whose uniform was torn while chasing Jenkins after he fled during a traffic stop.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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