COA reverses felony escape charge, finds woman didn’t have home detention order

A Clark County woman who let her ankle monitor die was wrongfully charged with Level 6 felony escape, as she never had a home detention order to begin with, the Court of Appeals of Indiana has concluded.

Sara Russell was sentenced to one year of imprisonment for Class A misdemeanor theft, and the Clark Circuit Court purported to order her sentence to be served on home detention as a direct commitment through community corrections. She was not convicted of any felonies that trigger availability of sentencing under Indiana Code § 35-38-2.6.

But after Russell allowed her home detention ankle bracelet to die, the state filed a Level 6 felony escape charge under I.C. 35-44.1-3-4(b), claiming Russell violated a home detention order.

Russell moved to dismiss the charge, arguing the trial court never entered a home detention order and she thus never violated one.

The trial court denied Russell’s motion, and an interlocutory appeal ensued.

Upon review, the Court of Appeals reversed, agreeing with Russell that no home detention order was entered and that she can’t be prosecuted for the charged escape without such an order.

“Because the trial court did not enter home detention as a condition of probation — the only means available for a misdemeanant like Russell — it did not issue any ‘home detention order,’” Judge Leanna Weissman wrote for the COA. “Because no ‘home detention order’ exists, the State had no grounds for charging Russell with Level 6 felony escape based on her alleged violation of a ‘home detention order.’ Russell therefore is entitled to dismissal of that charge.”

The case is Sara Russell v. State of Indiana, 21A-CR-2313

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