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Split COA reverses its original decision on rehearing

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Saying “plea agreements should be more artfully drafted,” a split Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed an award of restitution against a Daviess County man whose plea agreement was silent on the matter of restitution.

The Court of Appeals issued its opinion granting rehearing on the issue of restitution only in Adam Morris v. State of Indiana, 14A05-1209-CR-495.
 
Morris pled guilty to a Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated after his fiancée was thrown and killed from the ATV he was driving. The trial court then ordered Morris to pay nearly $15,000 toward burial expenses.

However, the Court of Appeals ruled in Morris v. State, 985 N.E. 2d 364 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013) that the trial court lacked the authority to order Morris to pay because the plea agreement did not contain any language about restitution.

On rehearing, the Court of Appeals followed Huddleston v. State, 764 N.E. 2d 655 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002) and Gil v. State, 988 N.E. 2d 1231 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013) and determined Morris’s plea was entirely open which gave the trial court discretion to order restitution.

“Despite our grant of rehearing and ultimate affirmance of the restitution award, we still wish to emphasize that plea agreements ideally should be more artfully drafted in cases such as this if the State wishes to seek restitution,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the majority.

Judge John Baker dissented. He noted the trial court’s order of restitution pertained to the charge -operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol equivalent of .08 or more causing death, a Class C felony - was dismissed under the plea agreement. He asserted the Court of Appeals’ original ruling was correct and voted to deny the state’s petition for rehearing.

He did agree with the majority’s call that plea agreements should be more artfully drafted.

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