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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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