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State v. Smith

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 28, 2017

State of Indiana, Appellant (Plaintiff below),
v.
Wallace Irvin Smith, III, Appellee (Defendant below).

         Appeal from the Lake Superior Court, No. 45G02-0002-CF-24 The Honorable Clarence D. Murray, Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 45A05-1507-CR-945

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Tyler G. Banks Stephen R. Creason Angela N. Sanchez Deputy Attorneys General

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Adam J. Sedia Rubino, Ruman, Crosmer & Polen Dyer, Indiana

          Massa, Justice.

         After pleading guilty to Class D felony theft, Wallace Irvin Smith, III entered into a plea agreement, which provided he would be "precluded from asking for Misdemeanor treatment." At that time, trial courts could convert sentences only at the time of sentencing. However, in 2012, the Indiana General Assembly amended Indiana Code section 35-50-2-7, allowing sentences to be converted after they had been entered, subject to certain requirements. In 2015, Smith petitioned the trial court to convert his Class D felony to a Class A misdemeanor pursuant to the amended statute, which the trial court granted. We find that this subsequent legislative amendment did not alter the unambiguous terms of Smith's plea agreement, and reverse the trial court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In 2000, Smith was charged with Class B felony robbery, but he eventually pled guilty to Class D felony theft. As part of his plea agreement with the State, Smith agreed that he would be "precluded from asking for Misdemeanor treatment in this cause." Appellant's App. at 8 (emphasis added). The trial court accepted the agreement, and entered conviction. Smith was then sentenced to one year probation. Upon completing his probation requirements in 2002, Smith was satisfactorily discharged.

         In 2015, Smith filed a "Verified Petition for Misdemeanor Treatment, " seeking to convert his Class D felony conviction to a Class A misdemeanor under Indiana Code section 35-50-2-7(d). Appellant's App. at 14. Over the State's objection, the trial court granted Smith's petition, vacated his felony, and re-entered conviction as a Class A misdemeanor.

         The State appealed, and our Court of Appeals affirmed. State v. Smith, 58 N.E.3d 224 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). This Court granted the State's petition to transfer, thereby vacating the opinion of the Court of Appeals. State v. Smith, 62 N.E.3d 1202 (Ind. 2016) (table); Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

         Standard of Review

         The terms of a plea agreement between the State and the defendant are contractual in nature. Lee v. State, 816 N.E.2d 35, 38 (Ind. 2004). When a trial court accepts a plea agreement, it is bound by its terms. Berry v. State, 10 N.E.3d 1243, 1246 (Ind. 2014). As such, we are guided by contract interpretation principles, beginning with the agreement's plain language and determining the intent of the parties at the time the plea was entered. Id. at 1247 (citing Citimortgage, Inc. v. Barabas, 975 N.E.2d 805, 813 (Ind. 2012) ("The ultimate goal of any contract interpretation is to determine the intent of the parties at the time that they made the agreement.")). To the extent issues of statutory interpretation are relevant, our standard of review is de novo. Day v. State, 57 N.E.3d 809, 811 (Ind. 2016).

         The Unambiguous Terms of Smith's Plea Agreement Precluded Converting His Sentence Under Amended Indiana Code Section 35-50-2-7(d).

         The State argues that intervening statutory changes do not invalidate a plea agreement's unambiguous and binding terms. Smith contends, however, that he could not have waived a right ...


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