from the Jefferson Circuit Court The Honorable Darrell M.
Auxier, Judge The Honorable W. Gregory Coy, Special Judge
Trial Court Cause No. 39C01-1307-FB-696
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Ellen H. Meilaender Supervising Deputy Attorney
General Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Jason J. Pattison Madison, Indiana
On June 10, 2014, Pebble Stafford pled guilty to three
offenses each under a separate cause number, and her plea
agreement provided that she would receive consecutive
sentences of six years executed, thirty days in jail, and
four years executed with direct placement in community
corrections. The trial court accepted the plea agreement and
sentenced Stafford accordingly. In 2017, Stafford petitioned
the trial court for a sentence modification. Over the
State's objection, the trial court granted Stafford's
motion. The State appealed.
We issued an opinion in this case in October 2017 and
determined that in light of the legislature's 2014
amendment to Ind. Code § 35-38-1-17, Stafford did not
waive her right to sentence modification by entering into a
fixed plea agreement, and thus, the trial court was
authorized to modify her sentence without the approval of the
prosecutor. We therefore affirmed the trial court's
modification of Stafford's sentence, but asked the
legislature for clarification.
Likely in response to our request, the legislature amended
I.C. § 35-38-1-17 effective on July 1, 2018. Our Supreme
Court granted transfer, vacated our original opinion in this
case, and remanded to us with instructions to reconsider in
light of this amendment. For the reasons set forth below, we
now conclude that the trial court was not authorized to amend
Stafford's sentence as it was pursuant to a fixed plea
Judgment reversed and remanded with instructions.
& Procedural History
On July 18, 2013, the State charged Stafford with Class B
felony dealing in a controlled substance. At that time,
Stafford also faced two unrelated charges under two separate
cause numbers. On June 10, 2014, Stafford entered into a plea
agreement with the State resolving all three cases. Stafford
agreed to plead guilty to Class B felony dealing in a
controlled substance, Class B misdemeanor possession of a
substance to interfere with a screening test, and Class C
felony battery. The plea agreement provided that Stafford
would receive consecutive sentences of six years in the
Department of Correction (DOC) with none suspended for the
Class B felony; thirty days in the Jefferson County Jail for
the Class B misdemeanor; and four years in the DOC with
direct placement in community corrections for the Class C
felony battery. The plea agreement contained no provision for
sentence modification. The trial court accepted the plea
agreement and sentenced Stafford in accordance therewith.
Effective July 1, 2014, weeks after Stafford pled guilty, the
legislature amended I.C. § 35-38-1-17 in an effort to
relax the rules regarding sentence modification. On January
30, 2017, Stafford filed a petition to modify her sentence.
The State objected, citing Ind. Code § 35-35-3-3(e),
which dictates that a trial court is bound by the terms of
the plea agreement. Following a hearing, the trial court
granted Stafford's petition on April 12, 2017. In
relevant part, the trial court found as follows:
2. The plea agreement was silent as to the right of
[Stafford] to seek a modification; nor did it preclude her
from doing so.
3. [Stafford] has completed a therapeutic community [program]
for which she was given credit toward her sentence.
4. After completion of the CLIFF program [Stafford] served as
a mentor in the program.
5. [Stafford] also obtained a GED, completed a course in
Problem Solving, and took courses in building trades.
6. [Stafford's] plan upon release is to go to the Ruth
Haven halfway house, obtain a full time job, remain clean,
and continue her education at IVY Tech as a part time
10. This court finds that there is no purpose in requiring
[Stafford] to remain in the DOC until her current release
date of August, 2019; she has completed multiple programs
while at DOC and no further programs or treatment are
available there which will avail [Stafford] of any further
opportunity to improve herself or her situation at DOC and
has been rehabilitated to the extent the DOC is able to do
11. [Stafford] can seek to become employed and educated if
released from imprisonment.
12. The Court finds that the remainder of [Stafford]'s
sentence should be suspended to probation with monitoring by
the community corrections department.
Appellant's Appendix Vol. 2 at 118-19. The trial
court ordered that Stafford be on supervised probation for
three years, but that after successful completion of one year
of probation, she could petition for ...