ILNews

Use of wrong statute requires reversal of dealing conviction

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a Class A felony conviction of dealing in cocaine because the trial court instructed the jury on an incorrect version of the statute that allows for enhancing dealing convictions.

Leroy Jones challenged his conviction of Class A felony dealing in cocaine as well as his sentence for that conviction and a Class B felony conviction of dealing in cocaine. Jones sold cocaine in a controlled buy to a confidential informant in May 2006 – once at the Greentree West Apartments and once at a gas station.

In November 2006, he was charged with the dealing counts and later convicted after a jury trial. He was sentenced to 35 years on the Class A felony and 15 years on the Class B felony to be served consecutively.

Jones argued his Class A felony dealing conviction should be reduced to a Class B felony because the jury was incorrectly instructed on the statutory definition of the offense of dealing within 1,000 feet of a family housing complex. The instruction used a definition of “family housing complex” that wasn’t in effect at the time of the offense: that it means a building or series of buildings that is operated as an apartment complex.

This definition wasn’t added until July 2006, after he committed his crimes. The version in effect at the time he dealt the cocaine defined it as a series of buildings owned by a governmental unit or political subdivision, contains at least 12 dwelling units, and where children are or are likely to live.

In Leroy Jones v. State of Indiana, No. 27A02-1002-CR-168, the Court of Appeals found the application of the revised statute violated the prohibition against ex post facto laws. The state didn’t prove that Greentree was a family housing complex even under the former version of the statute. Testimony from the apartment complex’s maintenance supervisor established there were 90 units, and that young families lived there. However, there was no evidence that the apartments were owned by a governmental unit or political subdivision, wrote Judge Ezra Friedlander.

“Accordingly, because the trial court erroneously instructed the jury as to the meaning of “family housing complex”, Jones’s dealing conviction under Count 1 was enhanced via a statute that, after the acts were committed, changed the elements of the crime of which he was charged. This violates the prohibition against ex post facto laws and therefore constitutes fundamental error,” he wrote.

The judges ordered Jones’ Class A felony conviction reduced to a Class B felony. They also found consecutive sentences to be inappropriate and remanded for re-sentencing based on the principles in the opinion.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

ADVERTISEMENT