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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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