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Lack of inmate program recommendation no issue on appeal, COA rules

June 14, 2018

A man sentenced to six years in prison for battering his father lost his argument on appeal that the trial court failed to recommend him for participation in a substance abuse treatment program.

The Indiana Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed Christopher Miller’s sentence and conviction of Level 5 felony domestic battery resulting in serious bodily injury.

Miller resided with Lawrence, his 72-year old father, when Lawrence found his son to be intoxicated when Miller returned home on July 21, 2017. When asking Lawrence where the car keys were, Miller became unsettled when his father said he did not know. Shortly after, as Lawrence stood at the kitchen sink, Miller came up behind him and threw him to the ground. Miller began choking his father, asking, “do you want to live or die.”

When Lawrence left the residence to seek help after the altercation, two Plymouth Police Officers found him to have a laceration above his right eye, which was swollen shut. Lawrence also had a bruised and swollen right hand, as well as a ripped and bloodied shirt. As a result of the battery, Lawrence suffered a fracture to his orbital socket that required surgery, a fracture to his hand, a laceration above his eye that required stiches, and contusions on his hand.

The Marshall Superior Court found Miller guilty and imposed the maximum sentence of six years.  On appeal, Miller argued that his sentence was inappropriate based on the trial court’s failure to recommend purposeful incarceration as a term of his sentence.

The court recognized “the place that a sentence is to be served is an appropriate focus for application of our review and revise authority,” Judge Robert Altice wrote. However, Miller did not challenge the location of his incarceration, but rather the failure to be recommended for a program in which he believed he was entitled to participate.

The court found that its role in relation to purposeful incarceration is to identify which defendants should be flagged as individuals most likely to benefit from placement in the program. Since Miller did not request a recommendation, entry into programs are left to the discretion of the Department of Corrections.

The court concluded that Miller’s argument in Christopher J. Miller v. State of Indiana18A-CR-85, failed, as the appropriateness of his placement within a particular program was not an issue subject to the court’s review.

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