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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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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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