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Trial court domestic violence counseling order affirmed

January 10, 2017

The Marion Superior Court was within its discretion when it ordered a man to complete domestic violence counseling even though he was not convicted on a domestic battery charge, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

In Jacob Skipworth v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1605-CR-973, Jacob Skipworth arrived at the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Amber Parke, in December 2015. He was in a paranoid and erratic state of mind and repeatedly told Park that people were trying to kill him. When Parke tried to convince Skipworth that no one was after him, he jumped on top of her and began strangling her.

After he stopped strangling Parke, Skipworth grabbed two kitchen knives and threatened her with both of them, telling her that she needed to be quiet so the people who were after him wouldn’t hear them. When he received a call from his mother, Skipworth took the call outside and Parke called the police.

The state charged Skipworth with seven different counts, and the Marion Superior Court found him guilty of criminal confinement as a Level 6 felony and the lesser included offense and of felony strangulation. He was sentenced to two concurrent one-year terms, with 258 days credited for time served and the remaining time suspended to probation.

In the written Sentencing Order and Abstract of Judgment, the trial court called for Skipworth to complete 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling that, if completed, would cause the trial court to consider alternate misdemeanor sentencing. Skipworth appealed, arguing that because he was not convicted of domestic battery, the trial court’s order for the completion of domestic violence counseling was an abuse of discretion.

But Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Margaret Robb wrote Tuesday for the unanimous panel that the court is “unpersuaded Skipworth cannot be ordered to take domestic violence counseling simply because he was not convicted of domestic battery.” Although Parke described her relationship with Skipworth as “just roommates,” Robb wrote that there was evidence in the record that the two had previously lived together as part of an intimate relationship, so domestic violence counseling was “reasonably related” to his treatment.

But the appellate panel did agree with Skipworth’s argument that the Marion Superior Court’s written sentencing statements erred by making alternate misdemeanor sentencing discretionary upon completion of his probation and by requiring the 26-week course as a condition of his probation because it would be impossible to complete the entire course before his suspended sentence expires.

“(I)f Skipworth wishes to obtain alternate misdemeanor sentencing, he must comply with the trial court’s conditions,” Robb wrote. “However, we conclude the trial court’s Sentencing Order and Abstract of Judgment contains a clerical error conditioning alternate misdemeanor sentencing on the successful completion of probation rather than successful completion of domestic violence counseling and we remand to the trial court to correct this error.”
 

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