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Justices reaffirm ruling on sentence enhancements under habitual offender statute

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The Indiana Supreme Court Thursday granted the state’s request for a rehearing in a case in which the justices determined that Anthony Dye’s sentence for unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, which was enhanced under the general habitual offender statute, was an impermissible double enhancement. The justices used the rehearing to reiterate that a person convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a SVF may not have his or her sentence enhanced under the general habitual offender statute by proof of the same felony used to establish that the person was a SVF.

In Anthony H. Dye v. State of Indiana, 20S04-1201-CR-5,  the state petitioned for rehearing contending the court’s decision in Dye’s case was a departure from Mills v. State, 868 N.E.2d 446, 452 (Ind. 2007), in that the justices held that serious violent felons who possess firearms cannot be punished as habitual offenders.

In Mills, the court held “a person convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon may not have his or her sentence enhanced under the general habitual offender statute by proof of the same felony used to establish that the person was a ‘serious violent felon.’” The justices reaffirmed the ruling, but pointed out that Dye is not entitled to relief on this ground.

Instead, the felony used to establish that Dye was a habitual offender was part of the same res gestae, and the enhancements must be based on two unrelated prior felonies. Dye's stemmed from a confrontation between Dye and an Elkhart Police officer in 1997, where he pleaded guilty to possession of a handgun, possession of a handgun within 1,000 feet of a school, and attempted battery while armed with a deadly weapon. The state used the possession within 1,000 feet of a school and a 1993 conviction for forgery to seek to have his sentenced enhanced under the general habitual offender statute. He was charged in 2007 - the conviction at issue in this case - with unlawful possession of a firearm by a SVF based on his conviction of attempted battery with a deadly weapon stemming from the 1997 incident.

“The State is not be permitted to support Dye's habitual offender finding with a conviction that arose out of the same res gestae that was the source of the conviction used to prove Dye was a serious violent felon,” Rucker wrote.

Justice Mark Massa concurred with his colleagues that the original opinion didn’t extend Mills to situations where different prior unrelated convictions are used to establish a habitual offender finding and the elements of the SVF statue, but continued to “dissent from the ultimate result on rehearing for reasons previously explained” in the original opinion.
 

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