There are several different types of criminal offenses that can be enhanced if an individual is charged with a subsequent similar case. For example, if someone is accused of shoplifting, and the total value of the items are less than $750, the person will be charged with theft, a class A misdemeanor. If the individual is convicted, and is later charged with another shoplifting offense, the new charge will be enhanced to a level 6 felony due to the prior conviction. A similar enhancement exists for those charged with domestic battery.
IC 35-42-2-1.3(a)(1)(c)(4) allows a domestic violence charge to be enhanced to a level 5 felony if “the person has a previous conviction for a battery offense or strangulation included in this chapter against the same family or household member.” Upon first glance, it appears that the “in this chapter” language specifies that only Indiana convictions can be used to enhance Indiana charges. Can an out of state domestic battery conviction be used to enhance a current Indiana domestic battery charge?
Holeton v State was decided at the trial court level in 2004. In Holeton, the defendant was convicted of domestic battery as a class A misdemeanor. However, the misdemeanor was enhanced to a class D felony due to a prior domestic battery conviction in Illinois (prior to 2014, level 6 felonies were labeled as class D felonies). The Indiana Court of Appeals later reversed the trial court’s decision, stating that the current domestic battery statute in Indiana precluded out of state convictions from being used as enhancements for current Indiana charges. Holeton v. State, 853 N.E.2d 539 (Ind Ct. App. 2006).
Holeton ruled that whenever an Indiana statute specifies limiting language such as “under this section”, then the statutory enhancements are restricted only to convictions in Indiana. Specifically, the court reasoned that prior to 1999, the language of the Indiana domestic battery statute allowed for an enhancement with a conviction from any state. However, in 1999, Indiana enacted a separate domestic battery statute which provided for an enhancement to a class D felony if the previous offense was a “prior unrelated conviction under this section.” The court ruled that the language “under this section” restricted enhancements to convictions that had occurred in Indiana.
The Indiana legislature addressed the issue shortly after Holeton was decided. A revised domestic battery statute became effective. The new statute provided that a domestic battery could be enhanced to a level 5 felony if the person has a previous conviction for a battery offense….against the same family or household member in any other jurisdiction, including a military court, in which the elements of the crime for which the conviction was entered are substantially similar to the elements of a battery offense included in this chapter.”
In 2020, Indiana again amended the domestic battery statute and did away with the added language that came into effect after Holeton. Instead, Indiana enacted a new, “catch-all” statute under IC 1-1-2-2.5, which applies to all other statutes in the Indiana Criminal Code. This statute, referred to as the “Savings Clause,” provides that “….(any) reference to a conviction for an Indiana criminal offense also includes….a substantially similar offense committed in another jurisdiction, including an attempt or a conspiracy to commit the offense, even if the reference to the conviction for the Indiana criminal offense specifically refers to an ‘Indiana conviction’ or a conviction ‘in Indiana’ or under ‘Indiana law’ or ‘laws of this state.’” The Savings Clause statute, therefore, nullifies the ruling in Holeton.
While it has been an arduous, complicated road in terms of caselaw and statutory revisions, it is clear that out of state convictions can continue to be used to enhance current Indiana charges. Are you or a loved one facing an enhanced domestic battery charge based on a conviction from out of state? Contact the experienced attorneys at Banks and Brower anytime at email@example.com or at 317-870-0019.