COA: Paroled man convicted in Florida not entitled to habeas relief

An Indiana man released on parole and later arrested in Florida was not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus or credit time in Indiana because Indiana authorities never discharged his parole and “turned him over” to their Florida counterparts, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

In Bennie Hale v. Keith Butts, 33A04-1705-MI-1067, Bennie Hale received a 12-year sentence in 2010 for his convictions of unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and criminal confinement. About four years later, Hale was released on parole under the condition that he would not engage in illegal conduct.

On the same day of his release, authorities from Florida picked Hale up on an outstanding Florida warrant, and he was subsequently convicted of felony grand theft in the southern state. He was released on his own recognizance in January 2015 and remained in Florida.

That same month, Indiana began submitting a series of three requests for Florida to transfer Hale back to Indiana, but each of those requests were denied. Hoosier authorities then directed Hale to return to Indiana for a meeting with parole authorities, but Florida authorities arrested him against shortly before he was scheduled to return, this time for possession of a firearm by a felon.

On the same day as his second Florida arrest, the Indiana Division of Parole Services determined Hale had violated his parole by engaging in criminal conduct in Florida. Thus, after serving time in the Florida Department of Correction, Hale returned to Indiana, admitted to violating his parole and was ordered to serve the remainder of his 2010 sentence.

Hale then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Henry Circuit Court, where he alleged he was being illegally detained. The trial court denied that motion and granted the state’s motion for summary disposition, determining the petition was one for post-conviction relief.

Hale appealed, and the Indiana Court of Appeals initially noted in its Tuesday opinion that the trial court incorrectly treated the petition in question as a PCR petition when it was correctly captioned as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. However, Hale requested the court decide the merits of the case despite that error.

Looking to the merits, Judge Mark Bailey determined the trial court did not err in denying the petition, writing the Indiana Parole Board never stated it intended to discharge Hale from his sentence, nor did it say it was “turning over” Hale to Florida authorities. Additionally, the fact that Indiana authorities requested Hale’s return from Florida is evidence he was still under his Indiana parole agreement, Bailey said.

The appellate panel further determined Hale’s parole period – originally scheduled to expire on Nov. 27, 2016 – did not ultimately expire because it was statutorily tolled by the issuance of a warrant for his arrest due to a parole violation. The court also pointed to existing caselaw to determine a defendant is not “’entitled to credit on his Indiana sentence while he is incarcerated in another jurisdiction for a totally different offense.’”

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