Justices reverse, remand man’s reincarceration after being released too soon

It’s now up to a trial court to calculate credit time and determine whether a man who was released from prison too soon should be reincarcerated or remain free, the Indiana Supreme Court wrote in a Monday reversal.

Justices after hearing oral argument have ruled in the case of Jordan Allen Temme v. State of Indiana, 21S-CR-310, one of first impression involving man who was erroneously released from prison more than two years early and later ordered back behind bars.

Jordan Temme, who had been in jail since June 2016, was ordered to go back to the Department of Correction after he was released too early in July 2019. Temme was previously convicted under two causes of two Level 6 felony charges and eight misdemeanors. Factoring in time served and day-for-day credit, his projected release date should have been December 2020.

Upon intake into the DOC, Temme was erroneously awarded 450 days of jail credit, all of which were supposed to apply to his misdemeanor sentences. As a result, Temme was remanded to the custody of the Vanderburgh County Jail after serving only 10 months of his felony sentences. He was also discharged from parole supervision.

Another 450 days of credit time were given to Temme at the jail, and although he raised questions about whether his release date was too early, Temme was released from custody with 450 days left on his sentence.

When the state moved to reincarcerate him, Temme filed three motions: one to award credit time for time erroneously at liberty, one for the remainder of his executed sentence to be served in community corrections and one to modify his sentence to community corrections. But he was ordered back to the DOC in January 2020, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. 

But the Indiana Supreme Court reversed in a Monday decision after finding that, while erroneous release may not short-circuit the entirety of a person’s sentence, that person may, after the trial court holds a hearing, earn credit for time spent erroneously at liberty as if they were still incarcerated.

Writing for the unanimous high court, Justice Steven David began by noting that Indiana’s statutory scheme regarding credit time is not as comprehensive as the state suggests. Specifically, he noted that while it agreed Temme’s time at liberty does not qualify for credit time under Indiana Code Chapter 35-50-6, the statute occupies less space than the state would have the justices find.

“Read as a whole, we find the statute only covers what it says it covers. That is, Indiana Code chapter 35-50-6 only concerns credit time while an inmate is imprisoned or confined. We do not think the General Assembly has, by implication, excluded all other forms of credit time,” David wrote for the high court. “… Rather, we suspect this is the rare case that does not neatly fit into any particular box. Trying to shoehorn Temme’s quandary into the statute leads to an unworkable result that frustrates several purposes of our criminal code.”

The court thus concluded that although Temme may be entitled to credit for time spent at liberty, his erroneous release does not vacate the remainder of his sentence.

“As long as the defendant bears no active responsibility in his early release, he or she is entitled to credit while erroneously at liberty as if still incarcerated,” the court held. “This straightforward rule, however, does not relieve the defendant of his or her sentence. The defendant’s projected release date serves as a firm backstop. When it discovers an error, the State must petition a trial court to recommit the defendant to resume his or her sentence if, after calculating credit time, any sentence remains to be served.”

The Supreme Court added that Temme’s good behavior and successful reintegration into society “is certainly commendable and would likely qualify as ‘good time credit’ under the statute were he still incarcerated.” It also found that Temme may qualify for educational credit if he had previously been enrolled in a program but could not participate due to his erroneous release.

“We therefore reverse the trial court and remand this matter so that the trial court can calculate, consistent with this opinion, any credit time owed to Temme,” David concluded. “If time remains to be served after credit time is awarded, Temme must be recommitted to the appropriate authority.”

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