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Supreme Court analyzes appellate review rule on sentences

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Addressing an issue that’s divided the state’s intermediate appeals judges, the Indiana Supreme Court has held that review under Appellate Rule 7 may include consideration of a person’s total penal consequences within a trial court sentence.

Justices ruled today on Desmond Davidson v. State of Indiana, No. 49S02-1001-CR-41, which involves a defendant convicted of auto theft and resisting law enforcement. Desmond Davidson received an aggregate sentence of 545 days, and Marion Superior Judge James Osborn ordered that 180 days be executed and 365 days be suspended to probation. Davidson appealed and said the total advisory sentence was inappropriate.

Although the Court of Appeals affirmed last year, the panel disagreed about whether it should review “his partially-suspended advisory sentence the same as if it were a fully-executed advisory sentence.” The judges relied on caselaw from the past several years discussing the issue and the majority favored consideration of the fact that a portion of the sentence was suspended. Justices granted transfer to consider the issue.

The court noted that Indiana’s Constitution expressively provides for appellate power to “review and revise the sentence imposed,” and that in line with that provision Indiana Appellate Rule 7 authorizes a criminal defendant to appeal a sentence and allows that the reviewing court “may revise a sentence authorized by statute if, after due consideration of the trial court’s decision, the Court finds that the sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender.” Trial judges have many options to consider in imposing a sentence, the justices found.

The Court of Appeals was correct in this case, and the justices disapprove of the contrary views expressed in Eaton v. State, 825 N.E. 2d 1287, 1291 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005); Pagan v. State, 809 N.E. 2d 915, 926, n.9 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004); and Cox v. State, 792 N.E. 2d 898, 904 n.6 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003).

“We decline to narrowly interpret the word ‘sentence’ in Appellate Rule 7 to constrict appellate courts to consider only the appropriateness of the aggregate length of the sentence without considering also whether a portion of the sentence is ordered suspended or otherwise crafted using any of the variety of sentencing tools available to the trial judge,” Justice Brent Dickson wrote. “This does not preclude a reviewing court from determining a sentence to be inappropriate due to its overall sentence length despite the suspension of a substantial portion thereof. A defendant on probation is subject to the revocation of probation and may be required to serve up to the full original sentence.”
 

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  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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