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COA: Revoke spanking grandfather’s bail agent license

March 29, 2018

A man convicted of misdemeanor battery after spanking his grandson must give up his bail agent license after a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals determined his conviction was a qualifying offense warranting revocation.

After Alvin Putman was found guilty of Class A misdemeanor battery against his grandson, the Indiana Department of Insurance Enforcement Division moved the commissioner to revoke his bail agent license. The commissioner granted the motion and issued an order prohibiting Putman from reapplying for a license for five years from the date of his conviction or release, whichever is later.

Putman, however, maintained that his conviction was not a qualifying offense to revoke his license because it did not involve an element of violence. He took the issue to an administrative law judge, with his counsel arguing the act of spanking his grandson inflicted only transient pain and no injury. But Putman’s daughter testified that an inadvertent phone call made during the incident recorded her son screaming, “You’re choking me.”

Thus, the ALJ concluded the five-year restriction was appropriate, and the commissioner adopted the ALJ’s findings. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld Putman’s conviction in 2016, but the Marion Superior Court reversed the department’s revocation of his license after finding Class A misdemeanor battery does not include an element of violence.

The trial court then granted a motion to correct error and remanded the case to the commissioner, who appealed in Commissioner, Indiana Department of Insurance v. Alvin C. Putman, 49A05-1706-MI-1402. A divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the commissioner’s original decision on Thursday, with Judge Elaine Brown writing the commissioner’s interpretation of Indiana Code section 27-10-1-6 — which governs grounds for revocation — was reasonable.

“The offense for which Putman was convicted required more than simply physical contact with the victim; it required that the physical contact result in bodily injury,” Brown wrote for the majority joined by Judge John Baker. “It is not unreasonable to conclude that an offense which results in bodily injury also include an element which involves violence.”

The majority remanded the case to reinstate the commissioner’s original decision, but Judge Patricia Riley dissented. Writing separately, Riley said the statute defining Class A misdemeanor battery — I.C. 35-42-2-1(B)(c) — is silent on the element of violence, meaning a conviction under that statute does not meet the criteria for license revocation.

Riley said I.C. 27-10-1-6 would only allow revocation of Putman’s license if his offense “included” violence, but Brown — addressing that argument in a footnote — said the statute requires only the involvement of violence, not the inclusion.

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