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Judges disagree on state's ability to appeal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals issued a divided ruling Thursday on whether the state could appeal the denial of its motion to correct error after the trial court granted a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. The majority decided the state’s appeal should be dismissed as untimely.

In State of Indiana v. Elvis Holtsclaw, No. 49A02-1108-CR-743, Elvis Holtsclaw moved to suppress the chemical tests that supported his various drunk-driving charges. The trial court granted the motion, after which the state filed a motion to correct error within 30 days. The trial court denied that motion.

After the state dismissed the charges against Holtsclaw, it appealed the order granting the motion to suppress and the order denying the state’s motion to correct error.

In dismissing the appeal, Judges L. Mark Bailey and Carr Darden relied on the language of Indiana Code 35-38-4-2, which they said only confers on the state the authority to appeal an order granting a motion to correct error, not the authority to appeal from the denial of a motion to correct error.

Judge John Baker dissented because he didn’t read I.C. 35-38-4-2 as precluding the state from appealing. He said nothing in that statute stated or implied that Appellate Rule 9 shouldn’t apply to appeals initiated by the state.

“In my view, foreclosing the State from seeking redress through a more direct route, such as filing a motion to correct error in circumstances such as these, is simply not a sound application of the language embodied in Indiana Code section 35-38-4-2,” Baker wrote. “Moreover, I do not believe that our General Assembly intended the result reached by the majority in this circumstance when construing the provisions of Indiana Code section 35-38-4-2 and our court rules. Such a holding effectively elevates form over substance, which we are loathe to do.”

 

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