ILNews

Justices say sentencing scores can be used

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State trial judges can consider sentencing scores to help tailor penalties to individual defendants, as long as those results aren’t used as final aggravating or mitigating factors in deciding a penalty length, the Indiana Supreme Court says.

In Anthony Malenchik v. State of Indiana, 79S02-0908-CR-365, the court unanimously found that judges can use what are called Level of Service Inventory-Revised, or LSI-R, in order to assess whether an offender is likely to commit more crimes and determine the level of supervision and type of treatment needed.

“Such evidence-based assessment instruments can be significant sources of valuable information for judicial consideration in deciding whether to suspend all or part of a sentence, how to design a probation program for the offender, whether to assign an offender to alternative treatment facilities or programs, and other such corollary sentencing matters,” Justice Brent Dickson wrote in the 15-page decision.

After pleading guilty to receiving stolen property and admitting to being a habitual offender, Malenchik received a six-year sentence with two years suspended. On appeal, the defendant argued the trial judge used the numerical scores as an aggravating circumstance and that his sentence was improper. He argued that it was improper for the judge to use those scores, as those models aren’t scientifically or objectively reliable and that it conflicts with his state constitutional right that the penal code be founded on reformation principles and not vindictive justice. More broadly, he contended that using such scores could lead to “an unwise fundamental change” in Indiana’s sentencing system. The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence and score use.

Finding that state judges have judicial flexibility in considering various aspects for sentences, the justices determined that Tippecanoe Superior Judge Les Meade hadn’t used the test scores as aggravating factors against Malenchik.

Pointing out that the Court of Appeals has questioned the legitimacy of sentencing consideration of evidence-based assessment results in this case and another, the justices disagreed based on “a growing body of impressive research supporting the widespread use and efficacy of evidence-based offender assessment tools.”

But in saying the scores can be used, the court clearly noted that these tests are neither “intended nor recommended to substitute for the judicial function of determining the length of sentence appropriate for each offender.”

Justice Dickson wrote, “We defer to the sound discernment and discretion of trial judges to give the tools proper consideration and appropriate weight.”

In an accompanying four-page opinion in J.S. v. State of Indiana, 79S02-1006-CR-296, the court applied that Malenchik rationale in granting transfer and affirming another Tippecanoe Superior judge’s order, keeping intact a convicted child molester’s eight-year sentence on the same grounds.
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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