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First impression for habitual offender statute

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In an issue of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals had to decide whether a defendant's prior conviction for conspiracy to deal in cocaine qualified as a conviction for dealing in cocaine under the state's habitual offender statute. The appellate court concluded today the prior conviction for conspiracy to commit dealing is a prior conviction for dealing in cocaine for purposes of Section 8 of the statute.

In Myron Owens v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0811-CR-1052, Myron Owens appealed his convictions of felony dealing cocaine within 1,000 feet of a youth center program and felony obstruction of justice. He also appealed whether his prior convictions were sufficient to support his habitual offender determination.

Owens was arrested following a drug buy arranged by police with a confidential informant. The sale happened within 1,000 feet of a church day care center. He was also convicted of felony possession cocaine and misdemeanor resisting law enforcement, and sentenced to 80 years.

The Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence to support both his conviction in dealing in cocaine within 1,000 feet of the youth program center and obstruction of justice when he attempted to eat the money used during the drug buy.

In terms of his habitual offender enhancement, Owens claimed his instant dealing offense isn't listed in Indiana Code Section 35-50-2(b)(4) and that he hasn't accrued two unrelated dealing convictions. Owens' instant conviction for dealing isn't delineated in the subsection. The habitual offender statute states a prior conviction for dealing or possession of an illegal drug doesn't count for habitual offender purposes if the crime wasn't listed in Section 2(b)(4) and the defendant has less than two prior dealing convictions.

The panel considered whether Owens' conspiracy to deal in cocaine conviction in 2004, combined with his prior convictions of dealing in cocaine and carrying a handgun without a license, shows he had three prior felony convictions.

"The question presented here is whether Owens's prior conviction for conspiracy to deal in cocaine qualifies as a conviction for 'dealing in cocaine' under Section 8(d)(3)(C)(ii)," wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

In order to have convicted Owens of conspiracy to deal in cocaine, the state had to prove he actually dealt in cocaine, and under these particular facts and circumstances, Owens' prior conviction for conspiracy to commit dealing is, for purposes of Section 8, a prior conviction for dealing in cocaine, wrote the judge.

"Because Owens had two prior convictions for dealing in cocaine, the trial court could properly apply the habitual offender enhancement to the sentence imposed upon Owens's instant dealing conviction," he wrote.

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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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