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Morrison v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 24, 2019

James Woodrow Morrison, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the St. Joseph Superior Court The Honorable Elizabeth C. Hurley, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 71D08-1702-F3-11

          Attorney for Appellant Troy D. Warner Deputy Public Defender South Bend, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Tyler G. Banks Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Shepard, Senior Judge.

         [¶1] James Morrison claims his convictions of both resisting law enforcement while operating a vehicle in a manner that causes death and operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the body causing serious bodily injury violate his right against double jeopardy. Concluding that his rights were not violated, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] In February 2017, a police officer observed a vehicle he believed was recently stolen. After using the plate number to confirm this belief, the officer attempted to stop the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle, who was later identified as Morrison, accelerated and refused to stop for the officer. Morrison disregarded a red traffic light and collided with a pick-up truck, killing its driver. Morrison's three passengers were also severely injured. The collision involved four other vehicles that were struck by either the stolen vehicle, the pick-up truck, or debris. Morrison admitted to medical personnel that he had used heroin earlier in the day, which was later confirmed by a blood test.

         [¶3] Morrison was charged with Count I resisting law enforcement while operating a vehicle in a manner that causes death, a Level 3 felony;[1] Count II operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the blood causing death, a Level 4 felony;[2] and Counts III-V operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the body causing serious bodily injury, all as Level 6 felonies.[3] Pursuant to a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to all the charges. The plea agreement also reserved Morrison's "right to appeal his sentence regarding double jeopardy issues that may be directly related to issues raised by" this Court's decision in Edmonds v. State, 86 N.E.3d 414 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017), trans. granted. Appellant's App. Vol. 2, p. 37.

         [¶4] Pursuant to the parties' agreement, sentencing was left to the court's discretion. The court entered judgment on all counts but did so on the lesser-included offense of operating a vehicle while intoxicated as a Class A misdemeanor for Count II. The court sentenced Morrison to sixteen years on Count I and twelve months on Count II, to be served concurrently, and to thirty months each on Counts III-V, to be served consecutively to each other as well as consecutively to Counts I and II. The total is thus twenty-three and one-half years.

         Issue

         [¶5] Morrison presents one issue: whether his convictions violate double jeopardy.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶6] Morrison contends that, in light of our Supreme Court's decision in Edmonds v. State, 100 N.E.3d 258 (Ind. 2018), his convictions of (1) resisting law enforcement while operating a vehicle in a manner that causes death, and (2) operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the body causing serious bodily injury constitute a statutory double jeopardy violation.[4]

         [¶7] In Edmonds, the defendant's convictions included one count of felony resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle causing death and two counts of felony resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle causing serious bodily injury. The Supreme Court held that Indiana Code section 35-44.1-3-1, which makes resisting law enforcement unlawful, authorizes only one felony conviction where a single act of resisting law enforcement ...


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