Judges affirm restitution order, sentence following deadly crash

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues