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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. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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