COA: No-contact order didn’t protect deceased victim

No-contact orders cannot be issued to protect dead people, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in a Friday reversal for a man who sent an apology letter to a deceased person he previously committed fraud against.

James Mosley was convicted of Level 5 felony corrupt business influence after engaging in a multicounty home improvement scam in which he accepted thousands of dollars in payments from homeowners without performing the promised work. He was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, with six years suspended to probation.

Written in Mosley’s probation conditions was the requirement that he would have no contact with B.P., one of the victims of his scam. But B.P. had already died two years before Mosley’s sentencing, which neither party nor the trial court were aware of.

Not long after he was sentenced, Mosley wrote an apology letter to B.P. from prison in which he offered to buy the car that he had attempted to obtain from her during his earlier offense. When informed by her daughter that B.P. had died, Mosley wrote a lengthy letter to B.P.’s daughter, who contacted the Ripley County Prosecutor’s Office to halt further contact from him.

Mosley was subsequently charged with attempted invasion of privacy for writing the letter to B.P. when a no-contact order was in effect. Although the Ripley Superior Court granted Mosley’s motion to dismiss that charge, it found Mosley had violated the terms of his probation by attempting to contact B.P.

Thus, the trial court partially revoked Mosley’s probation, ordering him to serve in prison three of his original six years of probation. But the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in James L. Mosley v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-2094, finding that the state did not prove Mosley violated the conditions of his probation because those conditions were unconstitutionally vague and the no-contact order was void.

“We agree with Mosley that the no-contact order was void and could not support either a prosecution for attempted invasion of privacy or a probation revocation based on his commission of that offense,” Judge Leanna K. Weissmann wrote for the appellate court. “… As the trial court lacked authority under Indiana Code § 35-38-2-2.3(a)(18) to issue a no-contact order barring Mosley’s contact with B.P., given her earlier death, the order was void at the outset.

“… The State essentially is asking us to find Mosley should spend three more years in prison for attempting to violate a no-contact order that the State should never have sought and the trial court should never have entered as to a victim who no longer needed protection,” Weissmann continued.

Because the no-contact order imposed as a condition of Mosley’s probation was void, the appellate court concluded the trial court abused its discretion in revoking his probation and reversed in his favor.

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