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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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