Man entitled to serve sentence in jail, not DOC

August 31, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a trial court to resentence a man under the statute in place when he was sentenced, even though he committed the crime before the date noted in the statute. As a result, he is entitled to serve his Level 6 felony in jail instead of the Department of Correction.

John Prater pleaded guilty to Level 6 felony aiding in dumping a controlled substance. While driving, he had his passenger throw a bag of methamphetamine waste out the window. The crime happened in November 2015 and he pleaded guilty in December. The sentencing hearing was held Jan. 14, 2016, and the court ordered him to 1 ½ years in the DOC.

Prater argued that I.C. 35-38-3-3(d) prevented the court from ordering him to serve his sentence in the DOC. The statute says that after Dec. 31, 2015, a court may not commit a person convicted of a Level 6 felony to the DOC unless they meet certain criteria, none of which Prater did. As a result, he could be placed on probation, in the county jail, or in community corrections.

The state maintained that the statute only applies to those who are convicted after Dec. 31, 2015, but the language of the statute plainly says it applies to those committed after Dec. 31, 2015.

“Under the plain language of the statute, after December 31, 2015, a trial court is not allowed to sentence a person convicted of a Level 6 felony to the DOC unless certain circumstances are met. The State concedes that those circumstances are not met here. Consequently, because Prater was sentenced after December 31, 2015, the trial court erred by ordering him to serve his sentence in the DOC. We reverse and remand for the trial court to sentence Prater in compliance with Indiana Code Section 35-38-3-3(d),” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.

The judges also determined that the 1 ½ year sentence is not inappropriate given Prater’s criminal history.

The case is John Prater v. State of Indiana, 85A02-1602-CR-344.


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