Plea agreement provision ‘constitutionally suspect,’ COA finds

July 8, 2016

A man who had taken steps to prepare for home detention but was committed for mental health reasons when he was to report to community corrections should not have been ordered to serve his sentence in the Department of Correction, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Brad Sullivan, pursuant to a plea agreement, would serve his sentence on monitored home detention through community corrections. The agreement also said if he failed to establish eligibility, the sentence would be served in the Decatur County jail.

On the day Sullivan was to report, Oct. 20, 2015, he was in St. Vincent’s Stress Center after being treated at Columbus Regional Mental Health Unit days earlier for post traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder. He was transferred directly from Columbus Regional to St. Vincent’s. He claimed he got a hold of his counsel and his social worker was supposed to contact his attorney and fax him the paperwork proving he was in the mental health unit.

But Decatur County Community Corrections filed a petition Oct. 23 to revoke his placement because Sullivan did not report on Oct. 20 as required.

At the revocation hearing, the director of Decatur County Community Corrections said Sullivan already had been approved for community corrections and that if he were to report, the program would have no problem accepting him if the court ordered. Sullivan acknowledged he never called community corrections directly to inform staff he was in the hospital, but said he had contacted his attorney who was supposed to contact community corrections. The attorney told Sullivan’s new counsel that he thought he had faxed over medical documentation to the prosecutor’s office but it doesn’t appear it came through.

The trial court revoked Sullivan’s placement and ordered the 18 months served in the DOC based on the terms of the plea agreement.

Sullivan argued that the court abused its discretion in imposing such a harsh sentence under the circumstances and believed his violation didn’t warrant revocation of his placement.

“The provision of Sullivan’s plea agreement which essentially provided that any non-fee violation would automatically result in the revocation of his community corrections placement is constitutionally suspect,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.

Sullivan must still be allowed to offer mitigating evidence suggesting that the violation doesn’t warrant revocation and he offered evidence that his house and phone were approved for home detention, that he was hospitalized at the time he was to report and that he was under the impression his attorney would contact the court and community corrections.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, including the nature of the violation and sanction, we conclude the trial court abused its discretion in finding that Sullivan’s violation warranted revoking his community corrections placement and in ordering him to serve eighteen months in the DOC,” she wrote in remanding the matter for placement in community corrections.

The case is Brad L. Sullivan v. State of Indiana,16A01-1512-CR-2175.


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