Habitual offender enhancement vacated for failure to inform

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man’s habitual-offender finding and sentence when it found his previous jury-trial waiver was not made with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances, and therefore did not apply to the later-filed habitual-offender enhancement.

At a pretrial conference in on October 30, 2017, the trial court engaged Shane Bradtmiller in a colloquy during which it informed him of his right to a jury trial for his several felony charges, but Bradtmiller waived that right. During the same meeting, the state told the trial court that it had made a plea offer to Bradtmiller that expired at “the end of the week,” and if he did not accept it, the state would file a habitual-offender enhancement.

On the day of his deadline to accept or deny the state’s proposal, Bradtmiller declined the offer. The state subsequently filed the enhancement in open court, but unlike the Oct. 30 hearing, the court did not inform Bradtmiller of his right to a jury trial for the habitual-offender enhancement or otherwise engage in a colloquy with him regarding waiver.

In February 2018, Bradtmiller was found guilty of the felonies and was sentenced to 35-years, including 20 years for the habitual-offender finding.

On appeal, Bradtmiller contended that he did not personally waive his right to a jury trial for the habitual-offender enhancement.

In its argument, the state contended that although the habitual-offender enhancement was not filed at the time of the Oct. 30 hearing, Bradtmiller and his attorney nevertheless knew that the state would file the enhancement if Bradtmiller did not accept the state’s offer.

The appellate court, however, rejected the state’s assumption based on its prior decision in O’Connor v. State. In that case, the appellate court found that O’Connor was never advised of her right to a jury trial as to her habitual offender determination and never waived her right to such after the state filed the enhancement information. 

“O’Connor’s waiver of her right to a jury trial was not made with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances surrounding its entry and its consequences so as to be deemed a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of her right to a jury trial as to the habitual offender determination,” the court wrote in O’Connor.  The appellate court further concluded that it failed to see how O’Connor’s waiver was effective as to a habitual offender information which had yet to be filed.

“We reach the same result in this case,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote in Shane R. Bradtmiller v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-884.

“Because Bradtmiller was never advised of his right to a jury trial for the habitual-offender enhancement, his jury-trial waiver on October 30 was not made with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and therefore did not apply to the later-filed habitual-offender enhancement.”

Therefore, the appellate court reversed Bradtmiller’s habitual offender finding and imposed sentence, ultimately remanding the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

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