Supreme Court Argument
On March 7, Steven Knecht, a partner with Vonderheide & Knecht, presented an oral argument to the Indiana Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn a client’s sentence enhancement as an habitual offender.
The client was represented at trial by a different law firm. He was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, dealing in methamphetamine, illegal drug lab and being an habitual offender. The client had prior convictions for robbery, burglary and battery on a law enforcement officer. Knecht argued on appeal that none of the client’s convictions could be enhanced under IC 35-50-2-8(b)(3), the subsection of the habitual offender statute limiting its application to only certain drug offenses.
Under this subsection, if the instant offense falls under Chapter 16-42-19 (legend and prescription drugs) or Chapter 35-48-4 (controlled substances) and is not specified in IC35-50-2-2(b)(4) (dealing while possessing a firearms or certain dealing to minors), the State may seek to enhance the sentence only if the defendant has two or more unrelated convictions for a dealing offense indentified in Subsection 8(b)(3)(C).
The Court of Appeals concluded the client could be adjudicated an habitual offender because he was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine which is not a drug offense for purposes of IC 35-50-2-8(b)(3). Knecht successfully petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court to review this decision.
Knecht argued to the Indiana Supreme Court that conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine is a drug offense under IC 35-48-4-1.1 and the decision of the Court of Appeals decision leads to the illogical result that someone successfully makes and sales methamphetamine by himself would receive a lighter sentence than someone with a co-conspirator attempts but fails to make methamphetamine.
The Indiana Supreme Court has no deadline to make a decision.