ILNews

High court revises burglary sentence

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Indiana Supreme Court reduced a burglar's sentence, finding his crime didn't justify the 40-year sentence imposed by the trial court.

At issue in Steven Hollin v. State of Indiana, No. 69S01-0705-CR-188, is whether the trial court properly sentenced Hollin for his conviction of conspiracy to commit burglary and being a habitual offender.

Hollin and a friend knocked on doors in Ripley County to determine if residents were home. If the home appeared empty, they planned to rob the house. Hollin and his friend found an empty home and stole $600.

At his sentencing hearing, the trial court found Hollin's criminal history to be the only aggravating factor. The court found one mitigating factor - that he was only 18. The court sentenced him to 20 years on the conspiracy conviction and enhanced the sentence by 20 years for the habitual offender adjudication.

Hollin appealed, raising two issues: whether it was fundamental error for the trial court to admit evidence of his criminal history and whether the court properly sentenced him.

In his claim regarding his criminal history, Justice Robert Rucker wrote the Supreme Court has long held that it is permissible for the trial court to consider the same prior offenses for both enhancement of the instant offense and to establish habitual offender status.

Regarding his sentence, while the trial court properly exercised its discretion, the Supreme Court decided Hollin's crime didn't warrant the 40-year sentence. Most of Hollin's criminal history happened when he was a juvenile and none of the offenses, with the exception of a cruelty to animal charge, involved violence. His character and past transgressions do not justify the 40-year sentence, Justice Rucker wrote. The high court revised Hollin's burglary sentence to 10 years and imposed an additional 10 years for the habitual offender enhancement, for a total aggregate 20-year term.

Justice Brent Dickson dissented from the majority in terms of revising Hollin's sentence. He wrote that the appellate courts should refrain from revising sentences except in rare cases. Also, trial courts should know better than appellate courts what type of sentence is appropriate.
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