COA affirms man’s child molesting conviction, sentence

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a man’s child molesting conviction and sentence after finding, among other things, that his due process rights were not violated after he was found to be a sexually violent predator pursuant to Indiana Code section 35-38-1-7.5.

In Michael A Mehringer v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-02281, Michael Mehringer was sentenced to a nine-year term with seven years executed in the Indiana Department of Correction for his conviction of Level 3 felony child molesting.

Mehringer posed several questions on appeal, including whether Indiana Code section 35-38-1-7.5 unconstitutionally encroaches on the judicial fact-finding function and whether his right to due process was violated when he was determined to be a sexually violent predator by operation of law pursuant to the statute.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed, first finding sufficient evidence to support Mehringer’s conviction and sentence imposed in Johnson Circuit Court. The appeals panel additionally found that none of Mehringer’s proposed mitigating factors were supported by the record, and therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by omitting them from the sentencing statement. Neither did the appellate court find Mehringer’s sentence to be inappropriate given the nature of his offense and his character.

On the issue of separation of powers, the appellate court concluded that the SVP statute is not an unconstitutional legislative encroachment on judicial authority. It noted that as the Indiana Supreme Court observed in Lemmon v. Harris, 949 N.E.2d 803, 814 (Ind. 2011) the SVP Statute “leaves to the courts at various stages the power to determine the status of offenders and their likelihood of recidivism.”

Lastly, the appellate court found that Indiana Code section 35-38-1- 7.5 is not unconstitutionally vague, and Mehringer’s due process rights were not violated when he was deemed an SVP by operation of law.

“Mehringer was duly convicted of child molesting, and his SVP designation follows from that conviction. As explained supra, the SVP designation is merely a default status that an SVP can petition to have removed after ten years. … The SVP Statute does not deprive Mehringer of his opportunity to prove that he is unlikely to reoffend. The statute just delays his opportunity to do so until he has been released from prison and functioned in society for (a) period of time,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the appellate court, affirming Mehringer’s conviction and sentence.

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