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Morgan v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 1, 2017

Trevor L. Morgan, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

         Appeal from the Vigo County Superior Court The Honorable David R. Bolk, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 84D03-0907-FA-2258

          Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana Attorney for Appellant

          Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Henry A. Flores, Jr. Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana Attorneys for Appellee

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Trevor L. Morgan appeals the revocation of his direct placement in community corrections. He alleges Indiana Code section 35-38-2.6-5 is unconstitutional and he was denied due process. We affirm and remand.

          Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In 2010, Morgan pled guilty to Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine[1]and Class C felony neglect of a dependent.[2] He was sentenced to an aggregate term of twenty years, with ten years suspended to probation.

         [¶3] In February 2013, Morgan requested and was granted placement in a community transition program. However, he violated the terms and was ordered to serve two years of the suspended portion of his sentence "on the Work Release Program under supervision of Vigo County Community Corrections." (App. Vol. 2 at 188.)

         [¶4] On January 4, 2017, the State filed a petition to revoke Morgan's placement in the work release program. The State alleged he had committed nine violations of the program rules, including being in an unauthorized area, refusing an order, working outside an approved area, and escaping the facility. The trial court conducted a hearing on the allegations. At the hearing, Case Manager Bradley Burton testified regarding the violations Morgan allegedly committed. Morgan's attorney cross-examined Burton. Morgan testified and admitted some of the allegations and provided excuses for others. The trial court found Morgan committed the violations and revoked his placement in the program.

         The trial court ordered Morgan to serve the remainder of his suspended sentence in the Department of Correction ("DOC").

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶5] Morgan asserts amended Indiana Code section 35-38-2.6-5 (2015), which controls the community corrections program, is unconstitutional because it impermissibly delegates judicial authority to a member of the executive branch, i.e. the community corrections director, and because it permits revocation of community corrections placements without an "evidentiary hearing before a neutral and detached magistrate." (Appellant's Br. at 8.) Although Morgan did not raise these concerns before the trial court, he asserts they amount to fundamental error as "a blatant violation of due process." (Id. at 9.) Morgan asserts the statute is facially unconstitutional or, at the very least, unconstitutional as applied to him because his hearing "fail[ed] to comport with due process." (Id.)

         [¶6] The State asserts Morgan has waived these challenges and, even if he had not, the statute is not unconstitutional. Failure to object at trial generally waives the issue for appeal, except in cases of fundamental error. Knapp v. State, 9 N.E.3d 1274, 1281 (Ind. 2014), cert. denied. "Fundamental error is an error that makes a fair trial impossible or constitutes clearly blatant violations of basic and elementary principles of due process presenting an undeniable and substantial potential for harm." Clark v. State, 915 N.E.2d 126, 131 (Ind. 2009), reh'g denied.

         Improper Delegation of Judicial Authority

         [¶7] We review a constitutional challenge of a statute de novo. Morgan v. State, 22 N.E.3d 570, 573 (Ind. 2014). "A challenge to the validity of a statute must overcome a presumption that the statute is constitutional." Brown v. State, 868 N.E.2d 464, 467 (Ind. 2007). "The burden to rebut this presumption is upon the challenger, and all reasonable doubts must be resolved in favor of the statute's constitutionality." State v. Lombardo, 738 N.E.2d 653, 655 (Ind. 2000).

         [¶8] Article 3, section 1 of the Indiana Constitution divides the powers of the government into three departments: "the Legislative, the Executive including the Administrative, and the Judicial." It further provides none of the branches "shall exercise any of the functions of another, except as in this Constitution expressly provided." Id.

         [¶9] Indiana Code section 35-38-2.6-5 (2015) states:

If a person who is placed under this chapter violates the terms of the placement, the community corrections director ...

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