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First impression in 'non-suspension' rule case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals determined in a case of first impression that the state's 'non-suspension rule' in Indiana Code depends on the status of the prior criminal conviction at the time of sentencing for a subsequent conviction. Because a woman's prior unrelated Class D felony conviction wasn't reduced to a Class A misdemeanor at the time she was sentenced for a later drug conviction, her 20-year sentence stands.

In Julie A. Gardiner v. State of Indiana, No. 08A02-0810-CR-874, Julie Gardner appealed her sentence for dealing in methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a public park as a Class A felony. She argued the trial court erred when it determined Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-2(b)(1), the non-suspension rule, prohibited the court from suspending any portion of her statutory minimum 20-year sentence because she had a prior Class D felony conviction in Hamilton County that was later reduced to a Class A misdemeanor following a plea agreement and her successful completion of one year on probation.

No Indiana court had addressed the issue of whether a reduction of a prior conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to a plea agreement affects the application of the non-suspension rule. Based on Hutcherson v. State, 411 N.E.2d 962 (Ind. 1982), only a reversal or vacation of a prior conviction could allow for Gardiner's dealing in methamphetamine sentence to be reduced under the non-suspension rule. If the Hamilton County trial court had immediately reduced her prior felony to the misdemeanor, then the trial court would have had the discretion to order a suspended sentence now, Judge Margret Robb wrote for the majority. However, since that court postponed the reduction, Gardiner still had the Class D felony conviction on her record when she was convicted and sentenced for Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine, and the trial court couldn't reduce her sentence beyond the statutory minimum.

The split court was sympathetic to the argument that the non-suspension rule under these circumstances doesn't take into account Gardiner's good behavior after she was sentenced and Judge Robb wrote the judges were frustrated by a sentencing scheme "that so illogically limits the judge's discretion." The majority invited the legislature to consider amending the statutes to provide more judicial discretion.

The majority noted this holding only applies when a defendant is initially convicted or pleads guilty and is sentenced to a Class D felony and the conviction is later modified; it does not apply when a defendant is found guilty of a Class D felony but the trial court enters a conviction for a Class A misdemeanor pursuant to I.C. 35-50-2-7(b).

Judge Elaine Brown dissented, writing she wouldn't give the non-suspension rule such a strict interpretation as to tie the trial court's hands in suspending a minimum sentence when circumstances warrant a modification.

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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

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  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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