Brian L. PAQUETTE, Appellant-Defendant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff
On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 18A-CR-3072
On February 12, 2016, while under the influence of methamphetamine and purportedly believing he was being chased by farmers through a field, Brian Paquette attempted to flee from police by traveling the wrong way on I-69 near Petersburg, Indiana. This initiated a chain-reaction crash that claimed the lives of three victims, one of whom was pregnant, and severely injured a fourth.
As to the three deceased victims, Paquette was charged with three counts of resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle causing death, a Level 3 felony; three counts of operating a vehicle with methamphetamine in his blood causing death, a Level 4 felony; and three counts of reckless homicide, a Level 5 felony. Paquette was also charged with operating a vehicle with methamphetamine in his blood causing serious bodily injury and possession of methamphetamine, both Level 6 felonies.
Paquette agreed to plead guilty to all charges but argued that, because he engaged in only one act of resisting, the trial court could enter a Level 3 felony resisting-causing-death conviction as to only one of the deceased victims. The trial court ruled against Paquette on this issue and entered convictions on all three Level 3 felony counts and the Level 6 felony operating-causing-injury count. It sentenced him to 16 years on each Level 3 felony and to two and a half years on the Level 6 felony, to be served consecutively.1
In Paquette's first appeal, we held that the resisting law enforcement statute, Indiana Code section 35-44.1-3-1, does not contemplate multiple convictions when multiple victims are killed as a result of a single incident of resisting. Paquette v. State, 101 N.E.3d 234 (Ind. 2018) (“Paquette I”). Accordingly, we remanded with instructions to vacate two of the three Level 3 felony resisting-causing-death convictions. But because the statute for operating causing death does explicitly allow for multiple convictions arising from a single act, we instructed the trial court to “enter convictions under that statute for all victims and ․ sentence accordingly.” 101 N.E.3d at 242.
On remand, the trial court entered separate convictions and sentences on all three Level 3 felony counts but merged the second and third counts into the first count. The trial court also entered convictions on all three Level 4 felony counts. By imposing sentences of 12 years each for the Level 3 felony and the three Level 4 felonies, to run consecutively with the two-and-a-half year sentence for possession of methamphetamine, the trial court reached the same total sentence as before: 50 and a half years.
On Paquette's appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed in part and remanded. Paquette v. State, No. 18A-CR-3072, 2019 WL 2203251 (Ind. Ct. App. May 22, 2019) (“Paquette II”).
Paquette II correctly notes that double jeopardy principles prevent the entry of a Level 4 felony operating-causing-death conviction and a Level 3 felony resisting-causing-death conviction as to the same victim. But, citing the remand instructions in Paquette I, the Court of Appeals did not vacate one of the three Level 4 felony convictions. Instead, it instructed the trial court to vacate the single remaining Level 3 felony conviction and enter a conviction for the Level 6 felony offense of resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle—“a count of resisting law enforcement that is not enhanced for causing a death.” 2019 WL 2203251 at *3 (emphasis in original).
In its response to Paquette's petition to transfer, the State agrees that the Court of Appeals' efforts to correct this double jeopardy violation misconstrued Paquette I by vacating the Level 3 felony conviction instead of one of the three Level 4 felony convictions.
We grant transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals decision, Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A), and remand for the trial court to impose judgment of conviction for the following: one count of Level 3 felony resisting law enforcement causing death; two counts of Level 4 felony operating causing death; and one count of Level 6 felony operating causing serious bodily injury; and to sentence accordingly.
1. The trial court merged the Level 4 and Level 5 felony convictions into these four convictions.
All Justices concur.
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