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Justices rule on convictions, sentencing in police-impersonation case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Various offenses committed at different times and in different counties do not constitute a single episode of criminal conduct for sentencing purposes, the Indiana Supreme Court has reinforced this week.

That logic, however, doesn't extend to convictions, as the state's highest court has affirmed a lower appellate finding that multiple instances of police officer impersonation are considered "the same occurrence," and subsequent convictions in different counties violate Indiana's double jeopardy statute.

Justices granted transfer Wednesday in Derek Scott Geiger v. State of Indiana, issuing a two-page order that summarily affirmed the Court of Appeals' May 23 decision in Geiger v. State, 866 N.E. 2d 830 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007).

This case arises from an incident in July 2005 when Geiger and three others pulled a couple over and claimed to be narcotics officers. Geiger pleaded guilty in July 2006 to felony armed robbery in Floyd County and was sentenced to 10 years. In Harrison County, a jury found him guilty that August and he was later sentenced to 12 years to run consecutively to his Floyd County sentence. Charges were still pending at the time in Clark County for a similar incident.

In the lower appellate decision in May, the court vacated Geiger's conviction in Harrison County for impersonating a public servant because of his previous conviction for the same in Floyd County. The court held that "a defendant may not be convicted of more than one count of impersonating a public servant pursuant to Indiana Code section 35-44-2-3 based on the same occurrence, even if there are multiple victims."

The court noted, "It is an issue of first impression whether the appropriate number of convictions for impersonating a public servant turns on the number of victims to whom the defendant misrepresents or, instead, on the number of occasions on which the defendant engages in the unlawful conduct."

An appellate panel consisting of Chief Judge John Baker and Judges Mark Bailey and Melissa May determined that IC 35-44-2-3 is a conduct-oriented statute focusing on the act of impersonating a public servant and the intent to mislead another person. The statute doesn't require the victim to actually believe or be induced by the misrepresentation, the court reasoned.

In its order, the Supreme Court didn't delve into the conviction component of the case, affirming the Court of Appeals and only delving into the sentencing issues.

When analyzing the sentencing components on appeal, the Court of Appeals judges used a balancing test and determined "the independent nature of each of these offenses leads us to conclude that they are not a single episode of criminal conduct." The court rejected Geiger's argument that the consecutive sentences exceeded the length allowed by IC 35-50-1-2, in part because the offenses in both counties constituted one episode of that conduct.

Justices agreed, citing Reed v. State, 856 N.E.2d 1189, 1201 (Ind. 2006), and Harris v. State, 861 N.E. 2d 1182, 1188 (Ind. 2007), that both addressed the "episode of criminal conduct" issue.

The balancing test cited from Reed says, "Although the ability to recount each charge without referring to the other can provide additional guidance on the question of whether a defendant's conduct constitutes an episode of criminal conduct, it is not a critical ingredient in resolving the question. Rather, the statute speaks in less absolute terms: 'a connected series of offenses that are closely connected in time, place, and circumstance.'"

Justices wrote they agreed with the appellate court's conclusion that the various offenses, committed at different times and in different counties, did not constitute a single episode of criminal conduct.

The Supreme Court addressed another point Geiger made about how proper consecutive sentences were in that he didn't receive advisory sentences on the individual convictions. But the court dismissed that claim by citing a decision from Aug. 8 in Robertson v. State, where the holding was that a court imposing a consecutive sentence is not limited to the advisory sentence.
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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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