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‘Term of imprisonment’ is the total time a misdemeanant is incarcerated

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Deciding an issue that has led to confusion in the courts, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that time suspended is not included under "term of imprisonment" as used in the Indiana misdemeanor sentencing statute.



Joey Jennings appealed his sentence for Class B misdemeanor vandalism – 30 days executed, 150 days suspended and 360 days of probation. He argued that the sentence is illegal under Indiana Code 35-50-3-1(b), which says, “whenever the court suspends in whole or in part a sentence for a Class A, Class B, or Class C misdemeanor, it may place the person on probation under IC 35-38-2 for a fixed period of not more than one (1) year, notwithstanding the maximum term of imprisonment for the misdemeanor set forth in sections 2 through 4 of this chapter. However, the combined term of imprisonment and probation for a misdemeanor may not exceed one (1) year.”

The Court of Appeals ordered he be sentenced to a period of probation of no more than 185 days because “term of imprisonment” must also include suspended time.

The justices clarified their ruling in Smith v. State, 621 N.E.2d 325, 326 (Ind. 1993), that a combined term of probation and imprisonment may not exceed one year, notwithstanding the maximum term of imprisonment for the misdemeanor. They also decided that “term of imprisonment” for purposes of misdemeanor sentencing, doesn’t include suspended time.

Justice Mark Massa authored the 10-page opinion, Joey Jennings v. State of Indiana, 53S01-1209-CR-526, in which he wrote, ““The statutory language singles out each level of misdemeanor — A, B, and C — and says a court may suspend the sentences for each of those ‘in whole or in part’ and then place the misdemeanant on probation for up to one year. This clearly and unambiguously shows the legislature, by ‘term of imprisonment,’ meant only that time during which a misdemeanant is incarcerated.”

Under Jennings’ interpretation, only Class B or C misdemeanants could have a portion of their maximum statutory sentence suspended and still serve probation, but a Class A misdemeanant could never be sentenced to the statutory maximum of one year and have a portion of the sentence suspended subject to probation.

The opinion also looked at Smith and how the Court of Appeals has ruled on this issue since.

“Further, regardless of the maximum sentence available under Indiana Code §§ 35-50-3-2, 35-50-3-3, and 35-50-3-4, the combined term of imprisonment and probation for a misdemeanor may not exceed one year. We therefore remand this case to the trial court for imposition of a probationary period consistent with this opinion, not to exceed 335 days—the difference between one year (365 days) and the 30 days Jennings was ordered to serve in prison,” the court held.

In a companion case, Kathleen Peterink v. State of Indiana, 57S03-1302-CR-136, the justices affirmed Kathleen Peternik’s sentence – one year in prison, suspended entirely, and probation for one year, six moths of which was to be served on home detention – which the Court of Appeals had reversed based on its decision in Jennings.

The justices also affirmed the Court of Appeals’ order that the sentencing order be amended to allow for credit time for her home detention.

 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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