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Judges examine double jeopardy issues in child support case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has found a man’s three convictions on non-payment of child support for his three children don't violate double jeopardy principles, even though that issue is currently pending in another case before the Indiana Supreme Court.

In Felix C. Sickels v. State of Indiana, No. 20A03-1102-CR-66, the appellate court affirmed and reversed in part a case involving a northern Indiana man’s nonpayment of child support for his three children.

The non-support stems back to child support payments that Sickel didn’t make between 1997 and 1999, involving three children he and his wife had before their divorce in 1992. He lived out of state and the wife and children remained in Goshen, and Sickel was ordered to pay $118 in child support each week by a civil support order. But he didn’t pay that amount and was charged with three felony counts of non-payment in September 2001, each count alleging he accumulated an arrearage in excess of $15,000 per child.

Sickels was arrested in Michigan first in 2002 and three more times through the years, but released after Michigan authorities either didn’t notify Indiana about the arrest or he wasn’t extradited. Eventually, Sickels was brought back to Indiana in July 2010 on the felony non-support charges, and he was convicted at a bench trial, sentenced and ordered to pay more than $80,000 in unpaid support.

On appeal, Sickels argues that his conviction on three counts of non-payment involving one civil support order is a double jeopardy violation. The appellate court pointed out that Sickels is subject to the child support non-payment laws in place in the late 1990s, requiring a per-dependent arrearage of at least $10,000 to support each alleged Class C felony. Although this is an issue in a related child support payment and double jeopardy case currently before the Indiana Supreme Court in Sanjari v. State, 942 N.E.2d 134 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011), the Court of Appeals panel concluded that in the context of double jeopardy Sickels’ three convictions do not violate the same elements test of the U.S. Constitution or the Indiana Constitution’s statutory elements test.

The court affirmed Sickels’ convictions and part of his sentence, but remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to clarify the restitution order because it is inconsistent with what was said at the sentencing hearing.

 

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