COA reverses sentence imposed after failed drug program completion

November 23, 2015

A man who was ordered to serve 20 years – the maximum sentence for a Class B felony – after not completing a drug court program due to smoking Spice will be resentenced. The Indiana Court of Appeals found the trial court selected his sentence based on his failure to complete the program.

Ralph Jackson pleaded guilty in 2010 to Class B felony dealing in a Schedule II controlled substance, and as part of his plea, he was to participate in the Howard County Drug Court program. His sentencing was deferred pending completion of the program. But Jackson’s participation was terminated after it was alleged he smoked Spice and drove another drug court participant to purchase Spice.

The probation department and Jackson sought a 10-year sentence, but the trial court imposed the maximum sentence of 20 years. The judge, when sentencing Jackson, explained he imposed the enhanced sentence because of Jackson’s drug use while in the drug court program and his helping a fellow participant obtain drugs. The judge did not issue a sentencing statement that addressed the specific facts relating to Jackson’s crime for which he was being sentenced. Jackson had sold 10 methadone pills for $81.

“The sparse sentencing statement does not facilitate an independent review of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote.

“Although a sentencing court has options vis-á-vis the execution of a sentence, including such things as community placements, work release, home detention, drug court participation and the like, the trial court does not have the option of selecting a sentence based solely on the defendant’s conduct apart from the circumstances of the crime. Because the trial court did not issue an adequate sentencing statement, it abused its sentencing discretion.”

The case, Ralph Jackson v. State of Indiana, 34A02-1505-CR-453, is remanded for the trial court to sentence Jackson on the felony, accompanied by a sentencing statement that is adequate to facilitate appellate review.



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