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Statute doesn’t allow consecutive habitual offender sentences

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man’s sentence for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, finding the trial court had no authority to order his present sentence, enhanced by the habitual substance offender statute, to be served consecutively to his previously enhanced sentences.

John Jacob Venters appealed his sentence referred to as Cause No. FD-011 in court records, in which he pleaded guilty to Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He admitted to being a habitual substance offender. The trial court sentenced him to three years on the charge, enhanced by seven years because of the habitual substance offender statute. Two years of the executed sentence were suspended to probation. The sentence was ordered to be served consecutively to sentences imposed under Cause Nos. FB-024, FC-064, and FB-011. Those cases involve felony drug convictions as well as reckless homicide. He was also found to be a habitual substance offender and habitual offender in those cases.

In John Jacob Venters v. State of Indiana, 79A02-1305-CR-481, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded for his sentence in the OVWI case to be served concurrently with the other sentences.

Absent express statutory authority to do so, trial courts cannot impose consecutive enhanced sentences, regardless of the circumstances under which they arise, Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote, citing Starks v. State, 523 N.E.2d 735 (Ind. 1988), and Aslinger v. State, 2 N.E.3d 84 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014).

“The habitual offender and habitual substance offender statutes have been amended several times since Starks. With those amendments, the statutes are still silent on a trial court’s authority to impose consecutive habitual offender sentences. Accordingly, we reverse and remand to the trial court with instructions to run Venters’s enhanced sentence at issue in this case concurrently with any previous sentence enhanced by the habitual offender or habitual substance offender statutes,” he wrote.
 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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