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Rodriguez v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 11, 2018

Alberto Baiza Rodriguez, Appellant-Petitioner,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Respondent

         Appeal from the Elkhart Superior Court he Honorable David C. Bonfiglio, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 20D06-1503-F6-264

          Attorney for Appellant Jessica R. Merino Merino Law Firm, PC Goshen, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General Ellen H. Meilaender Supervising Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Crone, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Alberto Baiza Rodriguez appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to modify his sentence, which was imposed pursuant to a written plea agreement containing a fixed sentence of seventy-two months executed on work release. Rodriguez argues that modification of his sentence is permissible under Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-17(1), which provides that a person may not waive the right to sentence modification as part of a plea agreement. We agree and therefore reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] Based on an incident that occurred on March 11, 2015, the State charged Rodriguez with class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated ("OWI"), level 6 felony OWI with a prior conviction, class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of .08 or more, and with being a habitual vehicular substance offender ("HVSO").

         [¶3] On January 6, 2016, pursuant to a written plea agreement, Rodriguez agreed to plead guilty to the OWI charges and the HVSO allegation. The plea agreement specified that Rodriguez would serve thirty months for the OWI convictions and an additional forty-two months for the HVSO adjudication in the Department of Correction, all to be executed on Elkhart County Work Release. The agreement further provided that the State would agree to dismiss the class C misdemeanor charge and not to file additional charges arising out of the incident. The trial court accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Rodriguez according to its terms. Rodriguez began serving his sentence on January 20, 2016.

         [¶4] On January 12, 2017, Rodriguez filed a motion to modify his sentence, alleging that his work release placement had caused an undue hardship on his son and father and that Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-17(e) permitted the trial court to modify his remaining sentence from work release to home detention. Section 35-38-1-17(e) states,

At any time after:
(1)a convicted person begins serving the person's sentence; and
(2)the court obtains a report from the department of correction concerning the convicted person's conduct while imprisoned;
the court may reduce or suspend the sentence and impose a sentence that the court was authorized to impose at the time of sentencing. The court must incorporate its reasons in the record.

         Rodriguez asked the trial court to order a report from Elkhart County Work Release and set the matter for hearing.

         [¶5] The trial court held a hearing on Rodriguez's motion and acknowledged that his "report from the Work Release [was] very, very good, very outstanding." Tr. Vol. 2 at 7. The court took the matter under advisement and issued an order concluding that it did "not have the authority to modify the sentence because the court accepted the parties' plea agreement which requires the defendant to serve the sentence in Work Release."[1] The court referenced Indiana Code Section 35-35-3-3(e), which states, "If the court accepts a ...


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