COA: Probation revocation after guilty plea should be challenged with PCR, not direct appeal

The Indiana Court of Appeals has dismissed a man’s appeal of his probation revocation and related drug conviction, finding his claim could not be presented on direct appeal but must be presented in a petition for post-conviction relief because he pleaded guilty.

In 2018, Aaron Hoskins pleaded guilty in two separate causes for convictions of Level 6 felony failure to return to lawful detention and Class B misdemeanor criminal mischief. He was sentenced to 180 days of home detention and 719 days of probation.

The state moved to revoke Hoskins’ probation, however, after he was alleged to have been found in possession of a syringe and an alcoholic beverage and also failed to report to probation as required. As a result, he was charged with Level 6 felony unlawful possession of a syringe in a third cause.

The Warren Circuit Court sentenced Hoskins to 730 days in the first cause for his failure-to-return conviction and revoked his probation in the unlawful-possession cause, ordering him to serve 730 days. It also extended Hoskins’ probation in the criminal-mischief cause by one year and declared him eligible for the purposeful incarceration program.

Hoskins – who had proceeded pro se – appealed, arguing he did not knowingly or intelligently waive his right to counsel. But because Hoskins pleaded guilty, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded he could not bring his claim on direct appeal in Aaron B. Hoskins v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-2387.

Citing Crain v. State, 875 N.E.2d 446 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), the appellate court noted  Hoskins pleaded guilty to both the new criminal offense and to the probation violations.

“His argument on appeal regarding his waiver of the right to counsel attacks not the trial court’s sentencing discretion, but the validity of his plea. His claim must therefore be presented by way of a petition for post-conviction relief,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the appellate court. “… Because Hoskins’s claim cannot be presented on direct appeal and must instead be presented in a petition for post-conviction relief, we dismiss this appeal without prejudice as to his ability to present this claim in a petition for post-conviction relief.”

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