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Court rules on upward sentence revision

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The Indiana Supreme Court held today that appellate courts have the authority to increase a sentence on appeal, but the state can't initiate or cross-appeal review of the sentence and can't ask for a greater sentence if the defendant doesn't initiate an appeal.

The high court granted transfer in Steven McCullough v. State of Indiana, No. 49S02-0809-CR-508, to address whether an appellate court could increase a sentence and whether the state by cross-appeal may initiate a challenge to a trial court's sentence.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed McCullough's convictions of and sentences for Class C felony criminal confinement and Class A misdemeanor battery, but reversed his Class D felony criminal confinement conviction on double jeopardy grounds. The appellate court also ruled the state's constitution allowed appellate courts to review and revise sentences and even impose a more severe sentence and that the state couldn't cross-appeal to challenge a defendant's sentence unless the defendant appealed his sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision.

Justice Brent Dickson, writing for the majority, first analyzed the history of Article 7, Section 4 of the Indiana Constitution in determining whether appellate courts can increase a sentence. The article, which became effective in 1972, was based heavily on the 1962 American Bar Association Model Judicial Article, which used the Court of Criminal Appeals in England's power as a model. In England at the time, appellate judges could increase a sentence, although the British courts' authority to increase a sentence was diminished in 1968 by Parliament.

The term "revise" refers to a change or alteration, wrote Justice Dickson, and with no specific prohibition against increasing a sentence and given the history of the text in Section 4, the Supreme Court held the appellate review and revise authority includes the power to reduce or increase a criminal sentence on appeal.

However, since McCullough didn't appeal his sentence, the state couldn't on cross-appeal seek a remand for resentencing or request his sentence be increased. When a defendant wants a review of his sentence, the state may respond in its brief with reasons that support an increase in the sentence, the justice wrote.

Justice Theodore Boehm concurred and concurred in result with a separate opinion, with which Justice Robert Rucker concurred with part two of Justice Boehm's opinion.

Justice Boehm agreed with the majority's decision, but came to his conclusion through a different path, he wrote. He believed the 1970 amendment shows appellate review was to be encouraged, but also indicated a strong disposition toward upward sentence revisions.

In terms of revising sentences, Justice Boehm didn't join in the holding that appellate upward revision is dependent on the defendant's challenge of his sentence, finding the scheme the majority described for allowing the state to argue for an increased sentence in its appellee brief to be impractical. It could place defense counsel in an "awkward" position if upward revision by an appellate court is a realistic prospect, he wrote.

In the 36 years the appellate courts have had the authority to increase a sentence, they have not and Justice Boehm wrote the courts should state they have that power but do not expect to exercise it except in the most unusual case.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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