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Judges disagree as how to review sentence

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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges affirmed today that a defendant's sentence following a guilty plea wasn't inappropriate, but the judges didn't agree as to how to reach that conclusion.

In T. L. Brandon Hollar v. State of Indiana, No. 43A05-0906-CR-319, Judges L. Mark Bailey and Cale Bradford relied on Jenkins v. State, 909 N.E.2d 1080 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), to determine T. L. Brandon Hollar's sentence of three years in prison with two years suspended wasn't inappropriate. Hollar pro se pleaded guilty to Class D felony nonsupport of a dependent child and argued on appeal that he received the maximum sentence despite the two years being suspended to probation. He wanted the Court of Appeals to revise it through Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B).

The split Jenkins court concluded that in analyzing whether a sentence is inappropriate under Rule 7(B), anything less than a fully executed sentence of the maximum length doesn't constitute a maximum sentence. It also ruled that it's not realistic to consider a year of probation, a year in community corrections, and a year in prison as equivalent.

The majority looked at whether Hollar's sentence was composed of executed imprisonment time, in whole or in part, or included any alternatives to incarceration while performing the 7(B) analysis. It determined based on the nature of the offense and Hollar's character, he hadn't persuaded the appellate court that his sentence was inappropriate.

Judge Nancy Vaidik agreed with the result of the majority's ruling, but believed the court should use a different approach in evaluating sentences. She referred to Mask v. State, 829 N.E.2d 932, 935-36 (Ind. 2005).

"A probationary term poses the very 'real possibility' that a defendant will have to serve his suspended sentence," she wrote. "Whether or not this is within the control of the defendant, I find it unrealistic to ignore the suspended portions of a sentence and review only those portions ordered executed."

Her main concern was if the appellate court declines to review the totality of a potential sentence on direct appeal, the defendant would have no other opportunity to challenge the appropriateness of the sentence should probation be revoked. She declined to follow Jenkins and instead would review the entirety of Hollar's suspended and executed sentences for inappropriateness. She also concluded based on his character and the circumstances of the case, his sentence is appropriate.

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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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