A wrong-way driver who caused the deaths of three adults and one unborn child while fleeing police had two of his three convictions for resisting law enforcement overturned after the Indiana Supreme Court determined state law allows only one conviction for each act of resisting.
Brian Paquette, having drug-induced hallucinations, was driving north in the southbound lanes of Interstate 69. When an Indiana State Police trooper attempted to stop him, Paquette made a U-turn and headed south in the northbound lanes, where he collided with oncoming traffic.
Paquette pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges including operating a vehicle with methamphetamine in his body causing serious bodily injury, a Level 6 felony, operating a vehicle with methamphetamine in his blood causing death, a Level 4 felony, and reckless homicide, a Level 5 felony.
However, he reserved the right to ask the court to enter only one conviction and sentence for the resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle causing death, a Level 3 felony. The state charged him with three counts of resisting law enforcement, one for each deceased victim. Paquette argued he engaged in only one act of resisting and that his conviction on all three resisting charges violated the state and federal prohibition against double jeopardy.
The Pike Circuit Court ruled against him and imposed 16-year sentences to be served consecutively for each of the three felony resisting law enforcement convictions. In total, Paquette was sentenced to serve 55½ years.
On appeal, Paquette asserted the trial court erred. As written, Paquette argued, Indiana’s resisting law enforcement statute authorizes only one conviction for each act of resisting.
The Indiana Supreme Court agreed, reversing two of the three convictions for felony resisting law enforcement in Brian L. Paquette v. State of Indiana, 63S04-1709-CR-570.
A split Indiana Court of Appeals also reversed, relying on its own precedent in Armstead v. State, 549 N.E.2d 400 (Ind. Ct. App. 1990). The Supreme Court noted while Armstead is applicable, it does not fully resolve the issue presented by Paquette.
For that, the justices turned to analyzing the resisting law enforcement statute, Indiana Code section 35-44.1-3-1. The Court subsequently found the statute provides that a single discrete incident can be the basis for only one conviction no matter how many individuals are harmed.
“Nothing about the structure or language of the statute creates a new or independent offense and our inquiry into other similar statutes confirms our reading of Indiana Code section 35-44.1-3-1,” Justice Steven David wrote for the court. “Our legislature is aware that multiple convictions for multiple harms caused by a single violation require explicit authorization and we trust that they would have done so if that was their intent.”
The court reached the same conclusion in a similar case Friday, Matthew Edmonds v. State of Indiana, 18S-CR-50.