Appellate court affirms sentence change from home detention to DOC

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A man who claimed that his home detention sentence was wrongly changed to placement in the Indiana Department of Correction did not sway the Court of Appeals of Indiana to rule in his favor.

In September 2021, Ryan Fisel pleaded guilty to Level 6 felony operating a vehicle as a habitual traffic violator and admitted to being a habitual offender. The Wells Superior Court sentenced him to an enhanced term of almost 4½ years, all suspended except 732 days executed on home detention.

However, the trial court subsequently granted the state’s motion to correct error alleging the sentencing order was “contrary to law in that direct commitment to home detention is not provided for by statute for [Fisel’s] offense or enhancement.” The court then ordered that the 732 days of home detention instead be served in the DOC, prompting Fisel to appeal.

On appeal, Fisel alleged his original sentence of home detention was authorized under Indiana Code § 35-38-2-6.3 because a sentence pursuant to a habitual offender enhancement is eligible for direct placement on home detention.

But the Court of Appeals disagreed, noting I.C. 35-38-2.6-3(a) only authorizes placement on home detention as an alternative to commitment to the DOC when the sentence is non-suspendable pursuant to I.C. 35-50-2-2.1 or 35-50-2-2.2.

“Neither Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-2.1 nor 35-50-2-2.2 applies to Fisel’s sentence,” Judge Elizabeth Tavitas wrote.

The COA also noted Fisel’s enhanced sentence as a habitual offender is non-suspendable pursuant to I.C. 35-50-2-8(i), meaning home detention was not statutorily authorized for his sentence.

“Fisel also appears to argue that his ‘original sentence was not statutorily prohibited.’ We disagree,” Tavitas wrote. “… The trial court, accordingly, did not err in finding that Fisel’s original sentence was unauthorized.”

Additionally, the appellate court ruled the trial court did have authority to modify Fisel’s unauthorized sentence. It found both Lane v. State, 727 N.E.2d 454 (Ind. Ct. App. 2000) and Dier v. State, 524 N.E.2d 789 (Ind. 1988), to be distinguishable.

In a footnote, the COA added that the correction of Fisel’s sentence was not an abuse of discretion because it “did not modify Fisel’s sentence beyond correcting this improper placement.”

“Fisel also argues the trial court lacked jurisdiction to resentence him to a harsher sentence,” Tavitas concluded. “Obviously, an unauthorized sentence cannot stand merely because it is more lenient than what the law allows.”

Finding that the trial court properly corrected the error, the appellate court affirmed in Ryan L. Fisel v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-1279.

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