The Indiana Supreme Court will decide in a case of first impression whether a criminal defendant can waive the right to appeal in a plea agreement. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on this issue twice this year and decided defendants can waive the right to a direct appeal of a sentence.
The Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday for Timothy Ray Creech v. State of Indiana (NFP), 35A02-0612-CR-1140. Creech pleaded guilty to child molestation and later appealed his six-year sentence. During his guilty plea, Creech stated he understood he has the right to appeal his sentence if there is an open plea, but he waived the right to appeal his sentence as long as the Judge “sentences me within the terms of my plea agreement.” The court sentenced Creech to the maximum under the plea agreement.
As the Court of Appeals noted in another case dealing with the same issue, Santiago Perez v. State of Indiana, 866 N.E.2d 817 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), there are no Indiana decisions addressing an express waiver of the right to a direct appeal as part of a plea bargain agreement. In Perez, the Court of Appeals held that a defendant may in a plea agreement waive his right to direct appeal of his sentence because plea agreements are contractual in nature and bind the defendant, state, and trial court.
In Creech, the Court of Appeals referenced Perez in ruling Creech waived his right to a direct appeal because he expressly agreed to do so in his plea agreement.