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State v. Brunner - Sentence Modifications

Good jobs are getting harder and harder to find. This is even more true for people with felony convictions. Most, if not all, job applications ask whether the applicant has been convicted of a felony. Answering yes to this question could cause an otherwise qualified applicant to not be considered for a position. Modifying a conviction from a Class D felony to a Class A Misdemeanor is not an easy task. It's even more difficult in Indiana in light of a ruling earlier this summer from the Indiana Supreme Court.

On May 26, 2011 the Indiana Supreme Court issued a decision in a case entitled State v Brunner. This case deals with a trial court's authority to reduce a Class D felony conviction to a Class A Misdemeanor. The facts are fairly straight forward. Mr. Brunner was convicted in August 2000 of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (DUI/OWI), as a class D felony. Mr. Brunner was charged with a felony because he had a previous conviction for Operating While Intoxicated within five (5) years.

In 2009, the Court, after receiving a a request from Mr. Brunner, modified the sentence from a Class D Felony to a Class A Misdemeanor. The State of Indiana appealed this ruling. The Indiana Supreme Court determined that the Trial Court erred when granting the modification. However, the Supreme Court did note that "[t]he trial court believed it was assisting a defendant who had demonstrated he was worthy of an opportunity to have his conviction modified. However, at this time, the legislature has not enacted any such authority for the trial court."

Since post-sentence modifications are not allowable, I would anticipate Post Conviction Relief filings to increase, as this may be the only potential method to remove a felony conviction.

If you, or someone you know, needs a sentence modification or would like to discuss Post-Conviction Relief, please contact Gregory Miller, a Fort Wayne Criminal Defense Attorney.