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Judges uphold OWI conviction

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Even though a man who was temporarily found incompetent was detained in a facility for a period longer than his sentence would have been if he was convicted of Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the denial of his motion to dismiss the charge. The appellate court held the state had a substantial interest in pursuing the conviction because the man’s license would be suspended if convicted.

Darren Matlock was convicted of Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated. While the charge was pending, he was found to be incompetent to stand trial and was transferred to the custody of the Richmond State Hospital. Matlock’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges arguing that Matlock had been in custody for a period beyond the maximum sentence he could receive if convicted. Shortly after the motion was filed, Matlock had regained competency and was released.

The motion was denied and he was found guilty. The trial court sentenced him to time served and ordered a 180-day suspension of his driver’s license.

In Darren Matlock v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-1006-CR-609, the judges relied on State v. Davis, 898 N.E.2d 281, 285 (Ind. 2008), to uphold the denial of the motion to dismiss, citing a part of that opinion in which the Indiana Supreme Court justices noted there could be a number of instances in which the state would have a legitimate interest in determining someone’s guilt or innocence even though that person was found incompetent to stand trial and had been detained for longer than she could be if convicted. The justices gave the examples of requiring registration as a sex offender or to prove status as a habitual traffic offender.

In Davis, the justices dismissed the felony offense against a woman who the court found would never regain competency to stand trial. She had been confined to a state hospital longer than the maximum period of time she could have been sentenced for the offense, so the justices found this violated her Due Process rights. They also noted the state didn’t prove that its interests outweighed Davis’ substantial liberty interest.  

Many criminal convictions have collateral consequences aside from incarceration, including impacting voting rights. But the judges declined to recognize that any potential collateral consequence is sufficient to allow the state to proceed with prosecution of a long-term incompetent individual who had already been detained in excess of the maximum sentence for the particular crime.

“We are reluctant to recognize such a rule, and believe that the ‘substantial interests’ alleged by the State to allow an exception to Davis must be interests directly related to the particular nature of the offense with which the accused is charged,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

In Matlock’s case, an OWI conviction requires the suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license for a period of time. His conviction could also form the basis of a habitual substance offender sentence enhancement in the future or enhance a future OWI conviction to a Class D felony, wrote the judge.

“… where the possibility exists that a defendant accused of OWI may at some point in the future regain competency and be released back into society, which release also may include the defendant driving, the State may pursue an OWI conviction even if the defendant’s incompetency caused he or she to be detained for a period in excess of the maximum possible sentence for OWI. Here, Matlock’s incompetency never was alleged to be, and in fact was not, permanent. As such, the State was not precluded from pursuing an OWI conviction against Matlock,” he wrote.

The judges also affirmed there was sufficient evidence to convict Matlock.
 

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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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