‘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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues