ILNews

Majority: No double jeopardy in enhancement

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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."

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. He did not have an "unlicensed handgun" in his pocket. Firearms are not licensed in Indiana. He apparently possessed a handgun without a license to carry, but it's not the handgun that is licensed (or registered).

  2. Once again, Indiana's legislature proves how friendly it is to monopolies. This latest bill by Hershman demonstrates the lengths Indiana's representatives are willing to go to put big business's (especially utilities') interests above those of everyday working people. Maassal argues that if the technology (solar) is so good, it will be able to compete on its own. Too bad he doesn't feel the same way about the industries he represents. Instead, he wants to cut the small credit consumers get for using solar in order to "add a 'level of certainty'" to his industry. I haven't heard of or seen such a blatant money-grab by an industry since the days when our federal, state, and local governments were run by the railroad. Senator Hershman's constituents should remember this bill the next time he runs for office, and they should penalize him accordingly.

  3. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  4. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  5. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

ADVERTISEMENT