Court impermissibly entered convictions on 3 resisting law enforcement counts

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An Indiana trial court should not have entered convictions against a man on three counts of resisting law enforcement stemming from a single incident, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in a Wednesday opinion instructing the trial court to change the man’s convictions and resentence him accordingly.

In February 2016, Brian Paquette, who was high on methamphetamine at the time, drove northbound in the southbound lanes of I-69 near Petersburg, crossed the median when police officers tried to stop him, and collided with two vehicles holding a total of four passengers. Three of the passengers died, while the fourth was seriously injured.

Paquette was charged with three crimes relating to each of his three victims who died: Level 3 felony resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle causing death, Level 4 felony operating a vehicle with meth in his blood causing death and Level 5 felony reckless homicide. Additionally, he was charged with Level 6 felony operating a vehicle with meth in his blood causing serious bodily injury and Level 6 felony possession of meth.

Paquette agreed to plead guilty as charged, but reserved the right to ask the court to enter only one conviction and sentence on the charge of resisting law enforcement because he engaged in only one act of resisting. The court ultimately entered convictions on all three counts of resisting law enforcement, as well as his Level 6 felony conviction of operating a vehicle with meth in his blood causing serious bodily injury. The remaining counts were merged into those four counts, and Paquette was sentenced to an aggregate of 50 ½ years.

Paquette appealed in Brian L. Paquette v. State of Indiana, 63A04-1612-CR-2891, arguing Indiana Code 35-44.1-3-1 allows only one conviction of resisting law enforcement under the facts of his case. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, with Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik writing Wednesday that in the case of Armstead v. State, 549 N.E.2d 400 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990), the appellate court held “unless more than one incident occurs, there may be only one charge” of resisting law enforcement.

The court has reached the same conclusion in numerous cases since Armstead, Vaidik said. Though the Legislature has amended the state’s operating-while-intoxicated and arson statutes to allow for multiple convictions where the defendant caused multiple death or injuries, the General Assembly “has thus far decided not to add such a provision to the resisting statute.”

Paquette acknowledged that two of the three convictions and sentences for resisting can be replaced by two convictions and sentences for operating a vehicle with meth in his blood causing death as a Level 4 felony as to two the victims, and that is what the appellate court ordered the trial court to enter on remand. The COA also ordered Paquette to be sentenced accordingly.

Judge L. Mark Bailey concurred in result without a separate opinion.

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