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Justices: Appeal not available after guilty plea

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A majority of Indiana Supreme Court justices agreed a man who pleaded guilty couldn't appeal the denial of his pre-trial motion to suppress. Yet one justice believed the plea agreement should have been honored according to its terms, which included reserving the right to object to the denial of the motion to suppress.

In Tommy D. Alvey v. State of Indiana, No. 82S01-0902-CR-66, the state's highest court took the case to clear up conflicting decisions by the Indiana Court of Appeals on whether a person who pleads guilty is allowed to challenge the denial of a motion to suppress or other pre-trial motions on direct appeal.

The majority decided those who plead guilty can't challenge these motions on direct appeal based on precedent limiting the right to appeal following a guilty plea. The justices cited Tumulty v. State, 666 N.E.2d 394, 396 (Ind. 1996), and Lineberry v. State, 747 N.E.2d 1151, 1155 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001), to support their ruling.

Justice Frank Sullivan noted that on at least two occasions, the Court of Appeals decided to review the merits of a defendant's pre-trial motion to suppress notwithstanding the fact he had entered a guilty plea, but authority doesn't allow Alvey to challenge his convictions in a direct appeal following his guilty plea.

"To the extent that prior opinions of the Court of Appeals are inconsistent with this conclusion, we disapprove of those decisions," wrote Justice Sullivan. "A trial court lacks the authority to allow defendants the right to appeal the denial of a motion to suppress evidence when a defendant enters a guilty plea, even where a plea agreement maintains that such an appeal is permitted."

Tommy Alvey filed a motion to suppress evidence after he was charged with various drug offenses and carrying a handgun without a license. As part of a plea agreement, he expressly reserved the right to appeal the trial court's ruling on his motion to suppress. The trial court informed him he was allowed to appeal the decision even though he pleaded guilty.

Alvey then appealed the denial of his motion; the Court of Appeals affirmed because it believed his guilty plea foreclosed his right to challenge the pre-trial motions.

Justice Theodore Boehm saw no reason why Alvey's plea agreement shouldn't be kept intact. He voted for remand for consideration of the appeal of the denial of his motion to suppress.

"Permitting such an agreement gives the defendant whatever benefit a guilty plea provides in sentencing and also provides an appeal of the issue that is not subject to discretion of either the trial or appellate court," he wrote in his dissent. "Moreover, if the trial court's ruling on the motion to suppress is reversed, permitting the appeal will have generated an unnecessary sentencing hearing. But neither the court nor the prosecution is under any obligation to agree to such an arrangement unless it is sufficiently confident of success on appeal, or regards the prospect of avoiding a trial a sufficient inducement to agree."

The majority noted some unfairness to Alvey based on his plea because he was told he would be able to appeal the suppression motion. The high court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to give Alvey the option of proceeding with his current plea, absent the right to appeal the suppression order. If he doesn't exercise that option within 90 days of the certification of this opinion, the plea agreement will be vacated.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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