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COA reverses habitual offender enhancement

May 23, 2019

A habitual offender enhancement for a man with multiple battery convictions has been reversed after the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded his out-of-state convictions could not support such an enhancement under Indiana law. 

In June 2016, John Lacey – who has two prior out-of-state battery-related convictions – received a 13-year enhancement on his Level 3 felony aggravated battery conviction based on his habitual offender status. 

When Lacey agreed to plead guilty to the charge and admitted his status as a habitual offender, sentencing was ultimately left to the trial court’s discretion. Although Lacey’s plea agreement capped the enhancement at 14 years, a trial court sentenced him to 15 years, enhanced by 13 years. 

The trial court denied Lacey’s motion to correct erroneous sentence pursuant Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-15, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in John Jay Lacey v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-2623.

In its decision, the appellate court noted that because Lacey could have been imprisoned for more than one year for each of his two out-of-state convictions, both were treated as Level 6 felony convictions under Indiana law in 2017. 

“Therefore, those Florida convictions could not support a habitual offender enhancement. I.C. § 35-50-2-8(b)(2) (2017),” Judge L. Mark Bailey concluded. “There was insufficient evidence to support the thirteen-year habitual offender enhancement.” 

The lower court’s judgement on the habitual offender finding was thus reversed, and the case was remanded to the trial court for resentencing. 

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