Inmate’s discipline sanction doesn’t preclude criminal prosecution for same act, COA rules

Disciplinary sanctions imposed by the Indiana Department of Correction against a Miami County inmate for battering an officer did not constitute double jeopardy barring criminal prosecution, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

While serving time as an inmate at the Miami Correctional Facility in 2019, Kennic Brown was charged with Level 6 felony battery against a public safety officer after he allegedly fought with and scratched an on-duty prison guard.

A DOC disciplinary hearing regarding the allegation was held and Brown was found to have violated a conduct code. He was subsequently sentenced to nearly one year in the restrictive housing unit, a 45-day commissary restriction, deprivation of 180 days of credit time and demotion of one credit class.

In addition to his DOC punishment, the state charged Brown with battery against a public safety officer based on the same charge. His motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds was denied, however, when the Miami Superior Court found the criminal charge did not constitute double jeopardy barring criminal prosecution.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed, finding that in the terms used in United States v. Ward, 448 U.S. 242 (1980), deprivation of credit time is not so punitive either in purpose or effect that it constitutes a criminal penalty that would subject a person to double jeopardy.

“Brown also argues that his 360-day confinement in the restrictive housing unit is punitive in nature because it was psychologically and physiologically detrimental to him,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the appellate court, which acknowledged Brown had suicidal thoughts during his time in that placement.

“All disciplinary actions are to some extent intended to punish an inmate for violating DOC rules. And some disciplinary actions are more severe than others,” Robb wrote. “As acknowledged in (Lyons v. State, 475 N.E.2d 719 (Ind. Ct. App. 1985), trans. denied), that is how DOC ensures peace and order within its facilities. … But the question when considering a double jeopardy claim is not whether the discipline is punitive, but whether it is so punitive as to essentially be a criminal punishment.”

Citing Williams v. State, 493 N.E.2d 431 (Ind. 1986), the appellate panel noted that although the defendant in Williams was only confined for 31 days as opposed to Brown’s 360-day confinement, “Brown does not argue that the length of his confinement made it punitive, only that the fact of his confinement was punitive.”

It therefore concluded that the disciplinary action taken by the DOC against Brown for his conduct violation did not preclude the state’s criminal prosecution of him for the same act.

“Accordingly, the trial court correctly denied Brown’s motion to dismiss the criminal charge against him on double jeopardy grounds,” Robb wrote.

The case is Kennic T. Brown v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-2261.

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