The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the sentence given to a woman who hit a man with her car and killed him while driving drunk was too harsh and took two years off it. However, the COA upheld all other parts of her conviction.
Morgan Mannix was staying with her parents after coming home from college and was driving home after a party the day after Thanksgiving. She was drunk and went off the road for 100 feet, hitting Alex Tabert and killing him as he was walking back from Fairbanks Hospital.
Mannix stopped and got out of her car, knowing she hit something, but she couldn’t find what she hit. After looking around for 15 seconds, she went home and went to bed. The next morning her dad was at the scene of the accident looking for what his daughter hit when he found police there investigating a dead body. He told the officers his daughter may have been involved and she was taken for a blood draw. Her blood alcohol content was measured at 0.10. At trial, she was found guilty of Class C felonies failure to stop after an accident resulting in death and operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death, but not guilty of Class B felony operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the body causing death.
Mannix appealed, saying the trial court erred in admitting evidence of her blood draw because her consent was not voluntary and in allowing the state to amend the charging information to add Class C felony OWI causing death because it was a substantive amendment that prejudiced her substantial rights. She also claimed the trial court erred by relying on the elements of the offenses to sentence her to an above-advisory term for each conviction.
The COA said Mannix did comply with the blood draw, even telling the nurse at the hospital she consented. Mannix contended a breath test should have been offered first, but the law says a breath test or chemical test can be offered.
The court also ruled Mannix’s rights were not prejudiced because she had more than sufficient time to prepare for and defend against the new charge, which was brought eight months before her trial.
However, the COA said the trial court judge erred when he justified an above-advisory sentence by relying on both counts and the elements as aggravators. The COA said this was problematic because the sentencing statement did not include an explanation as to why both counts and the elements were aggravating, and the judge relied on the elements of one offense to support an above advisory sentence for the other offense.
Because of this, the COA exercised its authority to review and revise Mannix’s sentence, and gave her four years with one year suspended for each conviction, to be served concurrently, and one year of probation.
Judge Terry Crone disagreed with court’s majority when it said the trial court judge relied on both counts and the elements as aggravators in Mannix’s sentence. He said the case the majority relied upon to come to this decision, Gomillia v. State, 13 N.E.3d 846, 852 (Ind. 2014), does not say that, and even if it did, he thought the distinguishing factors of fleeing and intoxication were self-evident and enough to support the trial court’s sentence.
The case is Morgan Mannix v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1505-CR-294.