Friend of the Indiana appellate and post-conviction advocate

The Final Word on Sentence Modifications

Earlier this week, the Indiana Supreme Court clarified a criminal defendant’s ability to seek modification of his sentence. In companion cases Rodriguez v. State and State v. Stafford, the Supreme Court held that in cases where criminal defendants enter into a fixed plea agreement (where the sentence is fixed in the terms of the plea agreement and the court has no discretion), the criminal defendant cannot later request a modification of that sentence.

If, however, a criminal defendant enters into a capped (or range) plea agreement (where the court exercises some limited discretion over the sentence, such as length of time, placement, etc.), the defendant could later request a sentence modification. The judge’s discretion, however, would still be limited to the terms laid out in the agreement.

In other words, the trial court possesses the same level of discretion over the modification as it possessed at the time of the original sentencing.

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