Study v. State

Decision Date04 February 2015
Docket NumberNo. 06S04–1407–CR–461.,06S04–1407–CR–461.
Citation24 N.E.3d 947
PartiesJohn O. STUDY, Appellant (Petitioner below), v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Respondent below).
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

24 N.E.3d 947

John O. STUDY, Appellant (Petitioner below)
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee (Respondent below).

No. 06S04–1407–CR–461.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

Feb. 4, 2015.


24 N.E.3d 948

Deborah K. Smith, Sugar Creek Law, Thorntown, IN, Attorney for Appellant.

Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana, Justin F. Roebel, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 06A04–1308–CR–391

DAVID, Justice.

John Study was charged with four counts of robbery, six counts of criminal confinement, and one count each of pointing a firearm, resisting law enforcement, and auto theft. The State also charged Study as a Habitual Offender. These charges resulted from four different bank robberies, which occurred over a year and a half. Study argues that the charge for Class B felony robbery, relating to the March 21, 2006 robbery should be dismissed on the grounds that it was filed outside of the statute of limitations period because the statutory concealment-tolling provision was inapplicable in his case. Thus, the statute of limitations would bar any charges related to that robbery from being brought after March 21, 2011. The State argues that Study's conduct did conceal evidence of the offense and was sufficient to toll the statute of limitations.

Although this Court has applied the concealment-tolling provision since the statutory language was changed in 1976,1 we have not previously had the opportunity to specifically address what actions of the defendant are required for a court to find “concealment” sufficient to toll the statute of limitations. After being presented with this issue for the first time, we agree with Study. We hold that the trial court erred when it refused to grant Study's motion to dismiss the March 21, 2006 robbery count because the charge was filed outside the statute of limitations, and further hold that the charge stemming from the March 21, 2006 robbery is dismissed.

Facts and Procedural History

Over the course of a year and a half, four separate bank robberies occurred in Boone County Indiana at the Key Bank of Zionsville and the Dover Branch of the State Bank of Lizton. The first robbery occurred on March 21, 2006 at the Key

24 N.E.3d 949

Bank of Zionsville. The next two robberies occurred on April 16, 2007 and July 19, 2007 at the State Bank of Lizton. The final robbery occurred on September 19, 2007 at the Key Bank of Zionsville. Each of the robberies appeared to be connected. In each, the perpetrator was dressed exactly the same, was armed with a similarly described weapon, and demanded the money be handed over in the same fashion. Through police investigation, a vehicle associated with one of the robberies was seen on property owned by John Study. A search warrant was executed, and the police continued to find evidence linking the robberies.

On October 29, 2007, Study was first charged with two counts of Class B felony robbery involving the State Bank of Lizton. On November 21, 2007, Study was arrested after a high-speed chase in Madison County, Florida. Thus, shortly after a bench warrant was issued for Study's arrest in Indiana, he was being held at a penal facility in Florida. The trial court explained that either party would have to proceed under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act to have Study brought back to Indiana to face the robbery charges. Throughout this time, Study filed various pro se motions on his own behalf. The Court continued to delay any action on the case until Study was returned to Indiana. Study's initial hearing was finally held on August 3, 2012. Prior to this, the State had added other charges, including allegations that Study was a Habitual Offender and criminal Counts III–X.2 It was not until August 20, 2012 that Study was charged with Counts XI–XIII, which related to the robberies of the Key Bank of Zionsville.3 Count XI, Class B felony robbery, specifically involved the Key Bank robbery that occurred on March 21, 2006.

On September 17, 2012, counsel for Study filed a Motion to Dismiss Count XI on the grounds that it was barred by the statute of limitations provided in Indiana Code § 35–41–4–2 (2014). A hearing was held, and Study argued that the State's charging information did not demonstrate on its face why the charge was not barred by the five-year statute of limitations.4 The trial court granted Study's motion to dismiss Count XI as it was originally charged, but later granted the State leave to file an amended charging information. The amended charge for Count XI indicated that Study had concealed evidence of the charged offense, which constitutes an exception to Indiana's statute of limitations under Indiana Code § 35–41–4–2(h)(2). Under the concealment-tolling provision, the State argued the statute of limitations was tolled until November 21, 2007 when Study was apprended, which would allow the State until November 21, 2012 to bring the charge against him.

The trial began on April 29, 2013 and spanned three days. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts, except Count IX, pointing a firearm. The jury later heard evidence on the Habitual Offender charge and found in favor of the State.

24 N.E.3d 950

Study received a total executed sentence of sixty-eight-and-one-half (68.5) years and a fine of $50,000.00. The sentence assigned to Count XI was fifteen (15) years to be served consecutively to the other sentences and a $10,000 fine.

Study appealed on three grounds: 1) the trial court erred in failing to sever his counts for trial; 2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to amend the charging information on Count XI that was filed outside the statute of limitations, and the amended information did not cure the defect to the statute of limitations issue; and 3) the trial court erred in denying Study's motion in limine relating to the admission of uncharged prior acts. The Court of Appeals held that Study was not entitled to severance as a matter of right, and thus there was no abuse of discretion in denying Study's motion to sever. Study v. State, No. 06A04–1308–CR–391, Slip Op. at *8–9, 2014 WL 1400196 (Ind. Ct.App. April 10, 2014). The Court of Appeals also held that based upon the concealment-tolling provision within the statute of limitations and the State's allegations in the amended charging information, the trial court did not err in denying Study's motion to dismiss Count XI relating to the March 21, 2006 robbery. Id. at *10. Finally, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in denying Study's motion in limine in regards to certain prior bad acts. Id. at *12–13. The judgment of the trial court was affirmed. Id. at *15. However, Judge Mathias dissented on the issue of tolling the statute of limitations. Id. Judge Mathias argued that tolling only occurs by concealment “when there is a positive act performed by the defendant calculated to prevent discovery of the fact that a crime has been committed.” Id. The dissent expressly disagreed with the proposition that any act by the defendant to avoid apprehension would toll the statute of limitations. Id. at *16.

This Court granted Study's petition to transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals opinion. See Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). We summarily affirm the Court of Appeals on all issues, except for the issue regarding the interpretation and application of Indiana Code § 35–41–4–2(h)(2), the statute of limitations concealment-tolling provision. See Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A)(2).

Standard of Review

It is well established that a trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss is reviewed only for an abuse of discretion. Gilliland v. State, 979 N.E.2d 1049, 1058 (Ind.Ct.App.2012) (quoting Estrada v. State, 969 N.E.2d 1032, 1038 (Ind.Ct.App.2012) ). However, “[w]e review a matter of statutory interpretation de novo because it presents a question of law.” Sloan v. State, 947 N.E.2d 917, 920 (Ind.2011) (citing Gardiner v. State, 928 N.E.2d 194, 196 (Ind.2010) ).

I. Tolling the Statute of Limitations under Indiana Code § 35–41–4–2

Indiana statutory law provides that prosecution for a Class B felony “is barred unless it is commenced: (1) within five (5) years after the commission of the offense.” Ind.Code § 35–41–4–2(a)(1) (2014). However, limited exceptions are recognized. At issue here is the concealment-tolling provision, which provides in pertinent part:

(h) The period within which a prosecution must be commenced does not include any period in which: ... (2) the accused person conceals evidence of the offense, and evidence sufficient to charge the person with that offense is unknown to the prosecuting authority and could not have been discovered by that authority by exercise of due diligence ...

Ind.Code § 35–41–4–2(h)(2) (2014) (emphasis added). Though other issues regarding

24 N.E.3d 951

the concealment-tolling provision have been addressed, the specific question of what conduct qualifies as concealing evidence of the offense has not been answered by this Court. However, a long line of Indiana precedent guides our analysis.

...

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