Sargent v. State, 102120 INCA, 20A-CR-1142

Docket Nº:20A-CR-1142
Opinion Judge:Crone, Judge.
Party Name:Randolf S. Sargent, Appellant-Defendant, v. State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff
Attorney:Attorney for Appellant Jessica R. Merino J. Merino Law Granger, Indiana Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General * Ellen H. Meilaender I c Supervising Deputy Attorney I General V Indianapolis, Indiana
Judge Panel:Robb, J., and Brown, J., concur.
Case Date:October 21, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Indiana
 
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Randolf S. Sargent, Appellant-Defendant,

v.

State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

No. 20A-CR-1142

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 21, 2020

Appeal from the Elkhart Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 20D03-1307-FA-39 The Honorable Teresa L. Cataldo, Judge

Attorney for Appellant Jessica R. Merino J. Merino Law Granger, Indiana

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

Crone, Judge.

Case Summary

[¶1] Randolf S. Sargent appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for sentence modification. The trial court determined that it did not have statutory authority to consider the merits of Sargent's motion. We disagree and therefore reverse and remand.

Facts and Procedural History

[¶2] On July 2, 2014, Sargent pled guilty to class A felony attempted dealing in methamphetamine. The trial court sentenced Sargent to thirty years in the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) with five years suspended to probation. Sargent appealed his sentence as inappropriate, and we issued a memorandum decision affirming it. Sargent v. State, No. 20A03-1409-CR-338, slip op. at *3 (Ind.Ct.App. April 17, 2015), trans. denied.

[¶3] In late 2015, Sargent filed a pro se motion to participate in the Purposeful Incarceration Program (PIP). The trial court denied the motion, but stated that it would reconsider its decision upon receiving a progress report from the DOC. After receiving the progress report, the trial court reaffirmed its denial of Sargent's motion. Then, in July 2018, Sargent filed a motion for modification of sentence. The trial court denied the motion but again ordered a progress report from the DOC and stated that it would reconsider the motion after reviewing the report. After receiving the report, the trial court reaffirmed its denial of Sargent's motion for sentence modification.

[¶4] On August 1, 2019, Sargent filed a second motion for sentence modification. The State filed an objection to the modification request, arguing that Sargent failed to give any meritorious reasons to support a modification of his sentence. The trial court held a hearing, during which it questioned whether it had authority to entertain the motion for modification. The court stated that it believed that this was Sargent's third motion for sentence modification, and that the applicable statute permitted only two such motions absent prosecutor consent, which the parties agreed had not been given here. The parties submitted briefs on the issue, and on May 11, 2020, the trial court issued its order determining that it lacked the authority to consider the merits of the current motion for sentence modification. Specifically, the trial court concluded that Sargent's December 2015 pro se motion to participate in the PIP "should count as a motion to modify" pursuant to Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-17, and that such motion, coupled with his 2018 motion for sentence modification, meant that he had exhausted his allowable motions for modification prior to the filing of his most recent motion. Appealed Order at 4. Accordingly, the trial court denied Sargent's current motion for sentence modification. This appeal ensued.

Discussion and Decision

[¶5] In most cases, we review the denial of a motion to modify sentence for an abuse of discretion. Gardiner v. State, 928 N.E.2d 194, 196 (Ind. 2010). However, in denying Sargent's motion for sentence modification, the trial court determined that it lacked the statutory authority to modify Sargent's sentence. We review this matter de novo on appeal. See State v. Holloway, 980 N.E.2d 331, 334 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012) (noting that question of trial court's authority to modify sentence presents pure question of law that we review de novo).

[¶6] A trial court generally has no authority over a defendant after sentencing. State v. Harper, 8 N.E.3d 694, 696 (Ind. 2014). Indiana Code Section 35-38-1-17 provides a notable exception to this general rule that gives trial courts authority under certain circumstances to...

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