Court of Appeals Affirms Sentencing in Tippecanoe County Robbery Case

On November 25, 2015, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the sentencing decision of Tippecanoe County Superior Court 2 Judge, Steven P. Meyer. The appeal concerned a November 5, 2014, robbery of a Village Pantry in Lafayette, Indiana. The defendant was one of three people robbing the store. During the course of the robbery, the defendant stole money, alcohol, and food while one of her companions, armed with a knife and a shotgun, ordered two store employees to freeze and get on the floor. Judge Meyer found as an aggravating circumstance that the defendant placed some victims in fear by the use of the deadly weapon.

On appeal, the defendant claimed this was error since – she argued – placing someone in fear by use of the deadly weapon was a material element in the underlying crime. The notion is that the base sentence already assumes the presence of the elements in the underlying crime. An enhancement must, therefore, be something extra. The Court of Appeals noted that the statute for criminal confinement (IC 35-42-3-3) did not include an element of placing someone in fear. And the statute for robbery (IC 35-42-5-1) did not necessarily require placing someone in fear — rather, it is one alternative that can sustain a conviction for robbery:

A person who knowingly or intentionally takes property from another person or from the presence of another person: (1) by using or threatening the use of force on any person; or (2) by putting any person in fear

(Emphasis added by the Court of Appeals.) In this case, both factors were present. Therefore, it was not in error for the trial court to use the other one as a basis for enhancing the sentence.

There was also an argument that the defendant’s sentence was too severe in light of her character. The Court of Appeals did not agree, stating that her character “speaks very poorly for her.” She was 19 when committing this offense in 2014 but had first been in contact with the juvenile system in 2001 and in near constant contact with the juvenile justice system from 2009 onward. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence.