ILNews

State can't cross-appeal sentence under rule

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The state may not cross-appeal a sentence for an abuse of discretion or inappropriateness unless the defendant appeals his or her sentence in the appellant's brief, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today. The issue of the state filing a cross-appeal of a sentence is a matter of first impression.

In Steven McCullough v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0711-CR-931, Steven McCullough filed an appeal of his convictions of two counts of criminal confinement, battery, and the finding he was a habitual offender. He did not appeal his sentence.

On cross-appeal, the state asserted the trial court abused its discretion in balancing aggravating and mitigating factors in imposing McCullough's sentence and the sentences for the Class C felony criminal confinement and habitual offender counts are inappropriately lenient.

After examining Appellate Rules 7(A) and 7(B), and Article 7, Section 6 of the Indiana Constitution, the Court of Appeals determined that under Appellate Rule 7(B) and the Indiana Constitution, nothing prohibited the state from cross-appealing a defendant's sentence.

However, the appellate court interpreted Rule 7(A) as making the state's right to cross-appeal a sentence with respect to an abuse of discretion or inappropriateness contingent upon the defendant initiating an appeal of his sentence in his appellant's brief, wrote Judge Terry Crone. Because McCullough didn't appeal his sentence, Appellate Rule 7(A) prohibits the state's cross-appeal.

Judge Michael Barnes, who concurs in result, wrote in a separate opinion that he disagrees with the majority regarding whether the state could cross-appeal a sentence. He wrote the state can't challenge a sentence on cross-appeal in the absence of legal authority expressly authorizing it to do so.

Based on the language of Rule 7(A), which allows the state to cross-appeal where "provided by law," Judge Barnes wrote he believes the issue in this case is whether Indiana law expressly allows such a challenge; he concluded that state law doesn't allow a challenge.

"It is my belief that Indiana jurisprudence leans heavily in the direction of not allowing such an appeal. In my opinion, the majority's holding chills the right of defendants to appeal sentences. Until directed otherwise, either by our legislature or our supreme court, I conclude that the State is not permitted to challenge a defendant's sentence on cross-appeal in any circumstance," he wrote.

The three-judge panel did unanimously conclude there was enough evidence to support McCullough's convictions; however, it also agreed that his convictions of Class C and Class D felony criminal confinement violate the double jeopardy law, causing the appellate court to vacate his Class D felony confinement conviction.
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  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

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  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

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