Justices toss man’s child molesting charges for speedy trial violation

The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered discharge of child molesting counts, finding the defendant is entitled to the discharge because the state waited too long to bring a stay of the proceedings in order to toll Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C)’s one-year limitation.

Justices previously granted transfer in Brandon Battering’s case, which had divided the Indiana Court of Appeals in October 2019. Battering was charged with child molesting and child solicitation based on allegations that he engaged in sexual conduct with his 12-year-old stepsister.

Shortly before Battering’s scheduled trial date, the Pulaski Circuit Court granted his motion to suppress certain statements made to police. The state then sought interlocutory appeal, but did not request a stay of the trial proceedings until five months later.

Battering appealed the denial of his motion for discharge under Indiana Rule of Criminal Procedure 4(C), but the trial court denied it and a majority of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed.  However, Senior Judge John Baker argued that Battering’s motion should have been granted and the Indiana Supreme Court agreed to take the case.

The issue now presented for our review upon Battering’s interlocutory appeal is whether, for the purposes of Criminal Rule 4(C), the State’s action of seeking an interlocutory appeal automatically stayed the proceedings so as to toll Rule 4(C)’s one-year limitation. In other words, was the State required to specifically move for a stay of the proceedings, or did the interlocutory appeal create an automatic stay?” Justice Steven David posed for the Supreme Court.

“Reviewing the plain language of Indiana Rule of Appellate Procedure 14 in conjunction with Criminal Rule 4(C), we find that Rule 4(C)’s clock continued to tick until the State formally moved for a stay of the proceedings. Because this time continued to count against Rule 4’s one-year limitation in prosecuting the charged crimes and the State exceeded this limitation, we reverse the trial court and find that Battering is entitled to discharge,” the unanimous high court ruled.

First, the high court noted that the language of Criminal Rule 4(C) and Appellate Rule 14(H), in light of the Indiana Supreme Court’s precedent in Pelley v. State, 901 N.E.2d 494, 498 (Ind. 2009) and State v. Larkin, 100 N.E.3d 700, 703 (Ind. 2018)

led it to the conclusion that the state’s motion for continuance was not a stay under Criminal Rule 4(C).

“We can glean from these decisions that Rule 4(C)’s one-year limitation always tolls when a stay is in place. If a stay is not in place, however, the clock continues to tick against the State. So the question in this case is whether the State’s interlocutory appeal constituted a stay even if the State did not formally request one,” the high court wrote.

Indiana Appellate Rule 14(H) answers that question, the justices concluded, of which a plain reading provides that an interlocutory appeal only constitutes a stay if the trial court or the appellate court so orders.

“Nevertheless, the State urges that it complied — either constructively or substantially — with the spirit of the rule and should not be punished with the continued ticking of the Criminal Rule 4(C) clock. The State further argues that it had no other option in this case than to initiate an interlocutory appeal after the trial court’s adverse ruling to Battering’s motion to suppress. Be that as it may, the State did have an appropriate remedy available to it when it sought an interlocutory appeal: Request a stay. It failed to do so here,” the high court concluded.

It thus reversed the trial court in Brandon Battering v. State of Indiana, 20S-CR-31 and discharged Battering.

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