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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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