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State v. Arnold

Court of Appeals of Indiana

February 27, 2015

State of Indiana, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
John J. Arnold, Appellee-Defendant

Appeal from the Floyd Circuit Court. The Honorable J. Terrence Cody, Judge. Case No. 22C01-1212-FA-2843.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Justin F. Roebel, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: Bart M. Betteau, Betteau Law Office, LLC, New Albany, Indiana.

Crone, Judge. Friedlander, J., and Kirsch, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 316

Crone, Judge.

Case Summary

[¶ 1] The State of Indiana appeals the trial court's grant of John J. Arnold's motion to set aside his habitual offender enhancement. The State contends that the trial court erred in refusing to vacate Arnold's entire plea agreement when it vacated his habitual offender enhancement. We conclude that Arnold's motion to set aside habitual offender enhancement should be treated as a petition for postconviction relief and that the trial court's judgment should be reviewed as an award of postconviction relief. We also conclude that the vacatur of Arnold's habitual offender enhancement would frustrate the basic purpose of the plea agreement, and therefore the trial court erred in not setting the

Page 317

entire agreement aside. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶ 2] In December 2012, the State charged Arnold with class A felony attempted murder, three counts of class C felony criminal recklessness causing serious bodily injury by means of a deadly weapon, and being a habitual offender. The State amended the information to add two counts of class D felony failure to stop after an accident resulting in serious bodily injury or death. Apparently, the charges were based on an incident in which Arnold was driving his truck, hit or ran over three individuals, and fled the scene. Tr. at 44.

[¶ 3] In August 2013, the parties entered into a plea agreement wherein Arnold agreed to plead guilty to three counts of class C felony criminal recklessness (Counts 2, 3, and 4) and to being a habitual offender (Count 8). Arnold agreed to concurrent sentences of eight years each for the class C felonies and to a sentence enhancement of twelve years for being a habitual offender. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the habitual offender sentence enhancement was attached to all three criminal recklessness convictions.[1] Thus, both the State and Arnold agreed to an aggregate sentence of twenty years. The State agreed to dismiss all remaining charges.

[¶ 4] At the guilty plea hearing in September 2013, Arnold acknowledged that he had three prior felony convictions, two of which were prior unrelated felony convictions as required under Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-8 to support his habitual offender status. One of the felonies was a 2007 class C felony conviction for intimidation in Clark County. The trial court accepted the plea agreement and entered a judgment sentencing Arnold according to its terms.

[¶ 5] In the meantime, however, Arnold had filed a petition for postconviction relief in Clark County for his 2007 intimidation conviction. His petition was granted and that conviction was vacated. In December 2013, Arnold filed in this case a motion to set aside habitual offender enhancement because his 2007 Clark County conviction had been vacated. The trial court held a hearing on the motion.

[¶ 6] The trial court granted Arnold's motion to set aside the habitual offender enhancement and set another hearing for the parties to present further argument on whether the rest of the plea agreement should be set aside. Following the hearing, the trial court reaffirmed its order setting ...


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