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Judges affirm restitution order, sentence following deadly crash

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A man who was speeding and under the influence of alcohol when his car struck another, killing the driver and severely injuring the passenger, will have to make restitution to the victims, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Jose Guzman pleaded guilty to Class C felony reckless homicide in exchange for prosecutors dropping several other charges stemming from the accident. His blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was 0.20. The wreck killed Charity Bland and injured Richie Austin.

The trial court accepted Guzman’s plea and sentenced him to eight years in the Department of Correction and that he pay $4,510.65 to the estate of Bland and $20,631.76 to Austin.

In Jose Guzman v. State of Indiana, 54A01-1209-CR-409, Guzman raised numerous issues on appeal, including that he shouldn’t have to pay restitution to Austin because he was not a victim of the crime to which he pleaded guilty, and that his sentence was inappropriate. The Court of Appeals found Austin qualified as a victim under Indiana Code 35-50-5-3(a) and that the trial judge had evidence submitted by Austin’s attorney breaking down the total of Austin’s restitution claim by amount and to whom the amount was due for medical expenses.

Guzman also challenged some of the aggravating factors considered by the trial court, such as the fact his actions resulted in bodily injury to another person and his illegal status. The judges cited Bethea v. State, 983 N.E.2d 1134 (Ind. 2013), to point out that the plea bargain agreed to did not contain any language foreclosing the trial court from considering the facts and circumstances relating to the dismissed charges. They also reiterated that the COA has concluded that an individual’s unlawful immigration status is a valid aggravating factor because it demonstrates a disregard for the law.

“In light of Guzman’s actions, which included driving a vehicle at a high rate of speed with a BAC of 0.20 and getting into an accident with another vehicle, leaving one person dead and another severely injured; Guzman’s criminal history, which included a prior conviction for driving while intoxicated; and Guzman’s attempt to shift blame for the accident to the deceased victim, we cannot say that his eight-year sentence is inappropriate,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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