Matthew L. Johnson, Appellant (Defendant below),
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff below).
from the Hendricks Superior Court, Nos. 32D04-1508-F2-18 and
32D04-1507-F4-18 The Honorable Mark A. Smith, Judge
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Brian J. Johnson Danville, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Justin F. Roebel Deputy Attorney General
legislature's view of habitual offenders has changed over
time, from statutory versions strict to those more flexible.
In this case, the Court is asked to interpret the habitual
offender statute in one of its recently amended forms,
Indiana Code section 35-50-2-8(d) (Supp. 2015). Matthew
Johnson objected to the State's habitual offender
allegations, claiming each lower-level felony used for
habitual offender purposes must meet the statute's
ten-year requirement. We agree, and reverse the trial court.
and Procedural History
2015, the State charged Johnson under two cause numbers. The
first alleged seven felonies ranging from Level 2 to Level 6.
The second alleged three felonies, one Level 4 and two Level
6s. Then, in each cause, the State filed identical habitual
offender allegations. The State alleged that, pursuant to
Indiana Code section 35-50-2-8(d), Johnson was a habitual
offender based on Class D felony convictions in 2001, 2006,
2007, and 2009. Johnson objected, arguing each of the
underlying lower-level offenses must meet the ten-year
requirement in subsection 8(d)(2). The trial court overruled
Johnson's objection to the habitual offender enhancement,
but certified its order for interlocutory appeal.
Court of Appeals accepted jurisdiction and reversed, finding
convictions from which an offender was released more than ten
years prior to the current offense do not count for habitual
purposes, but those less than ten years do count. Johnson
v. State, 75 N.E.3d 549, 552-53 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017).
Thus, the court remanded the case to examine Johnson's
offenses alleged for habitual purposes. Id.
granted the State's petition to transfer, thereby
vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. Ind. Appellate Rule
review issues of statutory interpretation de novo.
ESPN, Inc. v. Univ. of Notre Dame Police Dep't.,
62 N.E.3d 1192, 1195 (Ind. 2016). "Our first task when
interpreting a statute is to give its words their plain
meaning" by considering the text and structure of the
statute. Id. If the statute is ambiguous, we will
determine and give effect to the legislature's intent.
J.D.M. v. State, 68 N.E.3d 1073, 1077 (Ind. 2017).
Unambiguous Language of the Habitual Offender Statute
Requires Each Prior Unrelated Lower-Level Felony Used for
Habitual Purposes to Meet the Ten-Year Requirement.
years the Indiana legislature has periodically amended the
habitual offender statute to be more lenient. Under the 2015
version-the version under which the State charged Johnson-a