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Majority: No double jeopardy in enhancement

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In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals was divided about whether a man's sentence enhancement based on his use of a deadly weapon violated the application of double-jeopardy principals.

The majority ruled no and affirmed the trial court's 5-year sentence enhancement for the use of a firearm following Joshua Nicoson's convictions of criminal confinement with a deadly weapon as a Class B felony. He was also charged with four counts of pointing a firearm as a Class D felony.

In Joshua G. Nicoson v. State of Indiana, No. 32A04-0905-CR-241, Nicoson argued the enhanced penalty constituted an impermissible double enhancement in violation of double-jeopardy principles.

Nicoson went to a gas station with a gun to confront his friend's boyfriend and to help her end her relationship with the man. The boyfriend and three others arrived in a car and saw Nicoson pointing a gun in the air. He also pointed the gun at the boyfriend and a passenger, fired a warning shot in the air, ordered the people at gunpoint to lie on the ground, and then fired at the car when the people escaped.

Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-11 allows a judge to enhance a person's sentence to an additional fixed term of 5 years if the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person "used" a firearm in the commission of the offense.

The majority concluded it was apparent that Nicoson's convictions for confinement and the enhancement for that offense relied on separate facts. His criminal confinement conviction was elevated to a Class B felony because he was armed with a deadly weapon, and there's no requirement that the state has to prove a defendant actually used the weapon during the commission of the offense, wrote Chief Judge John Baker. The enhancement provision refers to actual use.

"In sum, the enhancement of the sentence is connected to, and punishes a defendant for, the additional escalation of danger, which is based on the actual use of the deadly weapon," he wrote.

The chief judge noted that two other jurisdictions addressing this issue also found the enhancements to be proper.

Judge Carr Darden dissented because Nicoson was charged and convicted of confining the victims while armed with a deadly weapon and of using a firearm while committing the confinement. If the deadly weapon is a firearm, how could a person thereby armed not also commit the offense of confinement using a firearm, questioned Judge Darden. He found the enhancement violated double jeopardy provisions under the Richardson "actual evidence test."

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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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