Criminal Defense Attorneys Convince Indiana Court of Appeals to Reverse 3 Criminal Convictions Last Week

It is somewhat unusual for the Indiana Court of Appeals to reverse so many convictions in a single week, but last week the Indiana Court of Appeals was persuaded by at least three (3) criminal defense attorney s and reversed three (3) criminal convictions pending before it.

According to The Indiana Lawyer, Watters v. State of Indiana, Montgomery v. State of Indiana, and Antwonna Smith v. State of Indiana all resulted in reversals last week, at least in part.

Criminal Defense Attorney s: It Pays Off to Object to Inadmissible Evidence

Deriq Watters v. State of Indiana, 34A02-1403-CR-215 (Ind. App. 2014).

On June 26, 2007, Mr. Watters pled guilty to Dealing Cocaine as a Class B Felony, and a conviction was entered.  Pursuant to the Plea Agreement he was sentenced to a total of twenty (20) years, with ten (10) of them executed and ten (10) years suspended.   After he had served part of his sentence and was released to serve the remainder of his sentence on probation, Mr. Watters was allegedly arrested in Marion County, Indiana, which was a violation of his probation.  The State of Indiana filed a Petition for the Revocation of Probation on June 11, 2014, alleging that Mr. Watters had subsequently been arrested for Robbery, as a Class B Felony in Marion County.

At the probation revocation hearing, the State moved to admit copies of a plea agreement and sentencing order from the Marion County Cause, but those documents were not certified.  Mr. Watters’ criminal defense attorney objected to their admission asserting that they were not certified, and therefore not admissible. The documents were admitted, over the criminal defense attorney ‘s objection, and were used as the only evidence that Mr. Watters sustained a new arrest and conviction.  Because of the evidence of a new conviction, Mr. Watters was ordered to complete the remainder of this sentence in the Indiana Department of Corrections.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reiterated the looser evidentiary standard in probation revocation matters, but ultimately concluded from prior cases that such documents must be “reliable” in order to be admissible.  In order to meet this test of reliability, documents must be certified by the clerk of the courts to demonstrate that they are in fact authentic.  Because of this, and because the criminal defense attorney properly objected, the Court held that the documents proving Mr. Watters’ conviction should not have been admitted at the hearing, and therefore that Mr. Watters’ probation should not have been revoked.

Criminal Defense Attorney s: Person May Not be Convicted of Murder and Neglect of a Dependent Causing Bodily Injury on Same Facts

Christopher M. Montgomery v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1312-CR-1039 (Ind. App. 2014).

In this case, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a conviction for Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury as a Class B Felony, because it violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

The Indiana Constitution provides that “[n]o person shall be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense.” IND. CONST. art. 1, § 14. Indiana’s Double Jeopardy Clause, much like the Federal Double Jeopardy Clause, prevents the State from being able to proceed against a person twice for the same criminal transgression.  The Indiana Supreme Court has held that “two or more offenses are the ‘same offense’ in violation of Article I, Section 14 of the Indiana Constitution, if, with respect to either the statutory elements of the challenged crimes or the actual evidence used to convict, the essential elements of one challenged offense also establish the essential elements of another challenged offense.” Hopkins v. State,
759 N.E.2d 633, 639 (Ind. 2001) (quoting Richardson v. State, 717 N.E.2d 32, 49 (Ind. 1999)).

In Indiana, five (5) additional categories of double jeopardy exist:
(1) conviction and punishment for a crime which is a lesser-included offense of another crime for which the defendant has been convicted and punished; (2) conviction and punishment for a crime which consists of the very same act as another crime for which the defendant has been convicted and punished; (3) conviction and punishment for a crime which consists of the very same act as an element of another crime for which the defendant has been convicted and punished; (4) conviction and punishment for an enhancement of a crime where the enhancement is imposed for the very same behavior or harm as another crime for which the defendant has been convicted and punished; and (5) conviction and punishment for the crime of conspiracy where the overt act that constitutes an element of the conspiracy charge is the very same act as another crime for which the defendant has been convicted and punished. See Guyton, 771 N.E.2d at 1143; Richardson, 717 N.E.2d at 55-56 (Sullivan, J., concurring).

In this case, the Court observed the relevant statute, Ind. Code § 35-46-1-4,6 and noted that “[t]he offense of neglect of a dependent, absent a resulting injury, is defined as a class D felony.” Id. (citing Ind. Code § 35-46-1-4(a)), and to convict Mr. Montgomery of the Class A or B Felony, which requires serious bodily injury, would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Indiana Constitution.

Criminal Defense Attorney s: To “Inflict” Injury Requires an Intentional Act.

Antwonna Smith v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1312-CR-1015 (Ind. App. 2014).

In this case, Ms. Smith resisted arrest for shoplifting outside a Meijer store and, as the officer took Ms. Smith to the ground, sustained a laceration to knuckle and fingertip. The officer admitted that the asphalt caused his injury.

At trial, the State moved to enhance the misdemeanor for Resisting Law Enforcement to a Class D Felony, because such conduct “inflicted” bodily injury upon the officer.  The Indiana Court of Appeals, however, determined that Ms. Smith did not “inflict” bodily injury upon the officer, because by the officer’s own admission, he was injured as he fell to the ground when his knuckle and fingertip struck the asphalt.  The Court reasoned that Smith did not “inflict” an injury on the officer or “cause” the officer’s injury, and her
conviction should not have been enhanced to a felony because Smith was “a passive part of the encounter” and “took no actions toward” the officer.

This case seems to imply that to “inflict” or “cause” an injury to an officer, the Defendant must have done something intentionally to bring that about, e.g. punching or kicking the officer, but the case stops well short of making that direct assertion.

SFT Lawyers – Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney s Who Can Help!

If you or someone you know has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense in Indiana, the experienced criminal defense attorney s of SFT Lawyers can help!  CALL TODAY for a FREE CONSULTATION! (219) 841-5683.

  • Chrystal Salesman

    my step dad got a dui in 1997, he got 2 driving while suspendeds while driving only to work (which is still wrong but i know you cant pay fines if you cant get to work) he was only got for DWS but they argued that he was a habitual and lost license for life over the DUI. they said he had no chance to ever get back because of his DUI. sine it has been 19 years and he has never had any other DUI troubles, and no major criminal acts since really 1997, (other then two DWS offenses) Is there not anyway to get DUI sealed under like a second chance act, or either of the DWS sealed or hidden, to where the man can get a second chance on his license. how long must one be punished for stupid acts they did several years ago, but have since matured, changed life around, held same job for 9 years, and have been in no major criminal trouble since the 1997 DUI and no minor trouble since his 2nd DWS in 2007,
    Is there anything we can do to help him work toward getting a second chance at getting his License