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Supreme Court knocks down habitual-offender enhancement

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The Indiana Supreme Court found a habitual-offender enhancement tacked onto the 20-year sentence of a serious violent felon was an “impermissible double enhancement.”

Anthony H. Dye was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and found to be a habitual offender after a shootout at a music studio in Elkhart on March 18, 2007. During the incident, Dye was shot twice and his 20-year-old son, Jermaine Jackson, was killed.

The state subsequently charged Dye in Elkhart Superior Court with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a SVF.

In addition, the state sought to have Dye’s sentence enhanced under the habitual-offender statute which provides that the sentence of a person convicted of a felony can be enhanced up to 30 years if he or she previously has been convicted of two unrelated felonies. To prove Dye’s habitual-offender status, the state used a 1998 conviction for possession of a handgun within 1,000 feet of a school and a 1993 forgery conviction.

Dye pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm by a SVF. However, he filed a motion to dismiss the habitual-offender allegation, arguing that enhancing his sentence under the habitual-offender statute would constitute an impermissible double enhancement.

Denying the motion, the trial court moved forward with a jury trial on the habitual-offender allegation. After a two-day trial, the jury found that Dye was a habitual offender. The trial court sentenced him to the maximum 20 years imprisonment on the SVF conviction, enhanced by 30 years due to his status as a habitual offender. Then the court suspended 15 years to probation, for an executed term of 35 years.

The Supreme Court found Dye’s habitual-offender enhancement violated the rule against double enhancements for two reasons. First, the SVF statute Dye was convicted under is a progressive-penalty statute. Second, the general habitual-offender statute does not include “explicit legislative direction indicating that a double enhancement is proper here.”   

Finding that the trial court erred in denying Dye’s motion, the Supreme Court vacated the 30-year enhancement. Also, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals that an executed term of 20 years imprisonment is not inappropriate. It remanded to the trial court with instructions to enter an order sentencing Dye to an executed term of 20 years.

Justice Mark Massa dissented, writing, "The courts of this state communicated to the General Assembly what was, and was not, permissible with respect to double enhancements. Several times, the General Assembly has responded. I believe their 2001 response amending the habitual offender statute shows first that the SVF statute is not a progressive penalty statute, and second that, even if the SVF statute were still subject to the general rule against double enhancement, there is explicit legislative direction permitting an adjudicated serious violent felon to be subject to additional enhancement under the general habitual offender statute."



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