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Neal v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

December 29, 2016

Angela R. Neal, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the Elkhart Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 20D03-1501-FA-2 The Honorable Teresa L. Cataldo, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Peter D. Todd Elkhart, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Chandra K. Hein Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Najam, Judge.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-7.8(c) (2016) provides that, "[u]pon determining that a defendant is a credit restricted felon, a court shall advise the defendant of the consequences of this determination." In this appeal, Angela R. Neal[1]presents a question of first impression: whether the trial court's advisement of the consequences of Neal's status as a credit-restricted felon complied with Section 7.8(c). We conclude that the trial court's advisement substantially complied with Section 7.8(c) and that there is no particular language that a trial court must use in order to comply with the statute. Accordingly, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On April 19, 2016, a jury found Neal guilty of two counts of child molesting, each as a Class A felony. At her ensuing sentencing hearing, Neal's counsel conceded that Neal was a credit-restricted felon based on the age of her victims. The court accepted her concession and then advised her as follows:

As to Count II, Child Molest, as a Class A felony, the court hereby sentences the defendant to 30 years at the Indiana Department of Correction[.] As to Count III, on Child Molest, as a Class A felony, the court hereby sentences the defendant to 30 years at the Indiana Department of Correction[.] Count II and Count III will run consecutive to each other. The court also finds that she is a credit-restricted felon and should be treated as such for good-time credit, through the Indiana Department of Correction[.]
* * *
The court advises the defendant that the defendant is not sentenced for less than the earliest possible release date and not more than the maximum possible release date. The court now grants the defendant 444 days credit for time served prior to sentencing, and the court finds no reason why she should not receive earned credit time at the credit-restricted felon status.

Tr. at 226-27 (emphases added). The court then sentenced Neal to an aggregate term of sixty years. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶3] Neal appeals the trial court's advisement with respect to the consequences of her status as a credit-restricted felon. According to Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-7.8(c), "[u]pon determining that a defendant is a credit restricted felon, a court shall advise the defendant of the consequences of this determination." Neal initially suggests that we should review the trial court's compliance with Section 7.8(c) "for an abuse of discretion, " but she then states that compliance with Section 7.8(c) "is not discretionary." Appellant's Br. at 4-5. We agree that compliance with Section 7.8(c) is not discretionary. Rather, upon determining that a defendant is a credit-restricted felon, the trial court "shall advise" the defendant accordingly. Neal's argument on appeal is that the trial court's advisement was not sufficient as a matter of law to satisfy ...


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