Justices strike down partial consecutive sentences

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Indiana trial court judges do not have discretion to impose partial consecutive sentences, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Bryant E. Wilson was convicted of Class A felony counts of rape and criminal deviate conduct and Class B felony armed robbery. Grant Circuit Judge Mark E. Spitzer sentenced Wilson to 45 years in prison on the A felony counts and 20 years on the B felony. He ordered five years of the 20-year sentence be served consecutively to the 45-year term, with the remaining 15 years served concurrently, for an aggregate 50-year sentence.

“Is this form of sentence permissible?” Justice Steven David wrote for the court in Bryant E. Wilson v. State of Indiana, 27S02-1309-CR-584. “Because trial courts are limited to sentences authorized by statute, and because the relevant provisions of the Indiana Code here do not authorize such a hybrid sentence, the answer must be 'no.'"

The Court of Appeals affirmed Wilson’s sentence in a split opinion. The majority of the COA panel held that such partial-consecutive sentences were permissible because statute did not prohibit them. Justices, however, sided with then-Chief Judge Margret Robb’s dissent in which she wrote courts may only impose sentences authorized by statute.

"Chief Judge Robb was correct when she said that “sentencing is a creature of the legislature and … we are limited to sentences that have been expressly permitted by the legislature,” David wrote. The panel wrote that allowing hybrid sentences would potentially create absurd and complicated results.

Justices remanded the matter for resentencing not to exceed the current aggregate 50-year term.

"There are a number of ways that Wilson’s aggregate sentence of fifty years can be effectuated by the trial court on remand, if it is merited. Imposing a partially consecutive sentence for one of the individual convictions is not one of them," David wrote.



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