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Calvin v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

December 21, 2017

Darryl Calvin, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the Allen Superior Court 6, No. 02D06-1604-F4-30 The Honorable John F. Surbeck, Jr., Judge

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 02A03-1701-CR-93

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT P. Stephen Miller Fort Wayne, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Ellen H. Meilaender Laura R. Anderson Andrew A. Kobe Deputy Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Rush, Chief Justice.

         Indiana's habitual-offender statutes count all prior non-Indiana felonies as Level 6 felonies and do not allow a habitual-offender finding based only on two Level 6 felonies. Relying on these statutes, Calvin argues that his two prior Illinois felonies are insufficient to support his habitual-offender enhancement. The State responds that this result is absurd, so we should graft new language onto the statutes.

         We reject the State's invitation. The habitual-offender statutes' plain meaning, though curious, has prevailed in Indiana for nearly thirty years. Judicially rewriting it now would violate separation-of-powers principles and our strict construction of criminal statutes. We thus reverse Calvin's habitual-offender enhancement for insufficient evidence and remand to the trial court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Darryl Calvin broke into a Fort Wayne home and stole a PlayStation 4, a sixty-inch plasma television, and a pair of gym shoes. Thanks to a vigilant neighborhood watch, he was promptly caught and arrested.

         The State charged Calvin with Level 4 felony burglary and alleged that he was a habitual offender based on two prior convictions. Both of those convictions were Class 1 felony residential burglary convictions from Illinois-one from 1992 and the other from 1998. A jury convicted Calvin on the new burglary charge and found that he was a habitual offender. The trial court sentenced him to six years for the burglary, and ten additional years for the habitual-offender enhancement.

         Calvin challenged the enhancement on appeal, arguing that his two Illinois felonies could not make him a habitual offender since Indiana's habitual-offender statutes treat all non-Indiana felonies as Level 6 felonies, and two Level 6 felonies cannot support the enhancement. The State responded that this reading leads to absurd results by treating defendants differently based on where they committed their prior offenses.

         The Court of Appeals affirmed Calvin's habitual-offender enhancement. First, it agreed with the State that the absurdity doctrine applied. Calvin v. State, 80 N.E.3d 226, 228-29 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017). Then, the court compared Calvin's Illinois burglaries to burglary in Indiana and concluded that his out-of-state convictions should be treated as Level 4 felonies. Id. at 229.

         We granted Calvin's petition to transfer, vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A).

         Standard of Review

         We first address the meaning of Indiana's habitual-offender statutes. This is an issue of statutory interpretation, so our review is de novo. Day v. State, 57 N.E.3d 809, 811 (Ind. 2016).

         We then determine whether, under that interpretation, sufficient evidence supports Calvin's habitual-offender enhancement. See id.; Pierce v. State, 29 N.E.3d 1258, 1264-65 (Ind. 2015).

         Discussion and Decision

         Under the plain meaning of Indiana's habitual-offender statutes, prior non-Indiana felonies count as Level 6 felonies. The State argues that this leads to absurd results, but we decline to cast aside the plain meaning through the absurdity doctrine.

         I. Indiana's Habitual-Offender Statutes Treat Non-Indiana Felonies as Level 6 Felonies.

         A habitual-offender finding is not a separate crime, but an enhancement that attaches to an underlying felony. Ind. Code § 35-50-2-8(j) (2017). Here, Calvin's Level 4 felony burglary ...


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