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Justices divided over vacating transfer in drug case

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Three of the five Indiana justices have decided that the Indiana Court of Appeals decision in Andrew Humphreys’ case challenging his habitual offender adjudication should stand, so they voted to vacate transfer granted in December.

Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Justices Steven David and Mark Massa decided March 28 after oral arguments and further review that the Supreme Court should not have assumed jurisdiction over Andrew Humphreys v. State of Indiana, 79S04-1212-CR-670. The three reinstated the not-for-publication decision by the Court of Appeals that found the Tippecanoe Superior Court erred in applying a 16-year sentence for Humphreys’ adjudication as a habitual offender.

Humphreys appealed his convictions and sentences for Class B felonies conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and dealing meth and Class D felony illegal drug lab, as well as his habitual offender adjudication. The appellate judges concluded that Humphreys could be adjudicated as a habitual offender because he was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture meth, which isn’t a drug offense for purposes of I.C. 35-50-2-8(b)(3). But the trial court should not have treated the habitual offender adjudication as a separate crime for which a separate sentence should be imposed. The judges ordered the court to specify which of the methamphetamine-related convictions is enhanced by the adjudication.

Justices Loretta Rush and Robert Rucker disagreed with their colleagues, with Rush writing a 3-page dissent.

“The Court of Appeals held that even though Defendant’s sentence for actually dealing methamphetamine may not be enhanced under our habitual offender statute, his sentence for conspiracy to deal may be. It based that conclusion on Owens v. State, 929 N.E.2d 754 (Ind. 2010), when Owens actually compels the opposite conclusion – not just because penal statutes must be strictly construed against the State, but as a matter of legislative intent. I would therefore reverse Defendant’s sentence enhancement,” she explained.

 

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