A home health care nurse whose flight from police while high on drugs and with her 89-year-old patient in the car had her sentence reduced because the Court of Appeals concluded she is not among the “worst offenders.” The high-speed chase led to a crash and the death of the patient from injuries she sustained.
In Christina M. Kovats v. State of Indiana, 15A01-1205-CR-224, Christina Kovats raised double jeopardy concerns regarding her convictions of Class D felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated and Class D felony criminal recklessness. She claimed the trial court shouldn’t have considered that N.C. died shortly after being injured in the wreck as an aggravating factor in sentencing.
Kovats stopped for gas while N.C. was in the car with her, but she left without paying. Police pursued her at high speeds, leading Kovats to crash the vehicle. N.C. suffered very severe injuries and died six weeks later. Kovats tested positive for having a high concentration of oxymorphone in her system after the accident.
The trial court merged the OWI and criminal recklessness convictions into the Class B felony neglect conviction but did not vacate those two judgments. Kovats was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The two Class D felonies were elevated based on the same serious bodily injury caused to N.C., so those convictions need to be vacated, the appellate judges concluded. The OWI conviction should be entered as the lesser-included offense of a Class A misdemeanor because that does not require proof of serious bodily injury.
The COA didn’t address Kovats’ claim that the trial court shouldn’t have considered N.C.’s death as an aggravating factor in sentencing because the judges decided the trial court should revise her sentence from 20 years to 15. Even though her crime was wholly unnecessary and senseless and fits within the classification of the worse offense, her character doesn’t lend to her being classified as a “worst offender” to justify the maximum sentence, the COA held.
She does have a criminal past, mostly tied to her drug addiction, and she has sought treatment for her addiction in jail. She also has four children, one of whom suffers from cystic fibrosis.
The case is remanded with instructions.