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Judge affirms retaining charges but finds criminal prosecution unjust

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An Indiana Court of Appeals judge expressed concern that a woman’s criminal case may be affected by her admittance of violating several city ordinances after her dogs attacked two people.

Carolyn Boss brought an interlocutory appeal challenging the denial of her motion to dismiss the charging information of criminal charges related to her dogs’ attacks. She argued that her criminal charges, filed a month after she was cited for violating Indianapolis ordinances, are a violation of double jeopardy principles. Boss admitted to 12 of the 15 violations which resulted in more than $1,200 in fines and court costs.

The trial court denied her motion to dismiss, concluding that the enforcement of the ordinances didn’t constitute punishment and the criminal prosecution was therefore not a second prosecution for the same offense.  

In Carolyn Boss v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1002-CR-225, Judges Ezra Friedlander and Paul Mathias affirmed, holding the ordinances – some of which prohibit the same conduct as the criminal statutes – were intended to be a civil remedy, not a criminal penalty.

They also analyzed the ordinances in question using the seven factors identified in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144 (1963), to conclude there is little evidence that the ordinance enforcement actions serve a punitive purpose.

Judge Melissa May concurred in result, unable to find fault with the majority’s analysis of the Mendoza-Martinez factors, but still felt the criminal prosecution of Boss was unjust. She believed the city fined Boss under ordinances that appear invalid under Indiana Code Section 36-1-3-8 because that section prohibits ordinances that prescribe a “penalty for conduct constituting a crime or infraction under statute.”

Judge May also worried that the appellate court’s decision effectively deprives Boss of her presumption of innocence or any meaningful right to counsel in the criminal prosecution. Boss didn’t have an attorney during the ordinance-violation proceeding, and the trial court found her to be indigent. Defendants have the right to counsel in all criminal prosecutions, “But those rights have little meaning where, as in the case before us, the State is in a position to pursue a criminal prosecution based on admissions a defendant made in an ordinance-violation proceeding where no such right-to-counsel protection was available to her,” she wrote.

“It appears Boss was subjected to a money penalty under an ordinance that is invalid, and will now be deprived of her presumption of innocence and of meaningful assistance of counsel as the State pursues her criminal prosecution. That is wrong, even if the State can avoid double jeopardy violations by characterizing the ordinance violation penalties as having no ‘punitive effect.’ It violates the spirit of numerous constitutional rights intended to protect the innocent in criminal proceedings.”

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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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