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June 10, 2010

Indiana Supreme Court addresses use of risk assessment tools in state sentencing

The Indiana Supreme Court yesterday handed down an interesting and important decision concerning the use at sentencing of the kind of risk-assessment tools that are become increasingly more popular in those states adopting evidence-based sentencing practices.  Here is how the Court's unanimous ruling in Malenchik v. Indiana, No. 79S02-0908-CR-365 (Ind. June 9, 2010) (available here), gets started:

Following his plea of guilty to Receiving Stolen Property, a class D felony, and his admission to being a Habitual Offender, the defendant was sentenced to a total of six years, with two years suspended.  The defendant appeals his sentence and presents two claims: (1) the trial court erroneously considered as an aggravating circumstance the numerical scores reported by the Tippecanoe County Probation Department after it conducted evaluations of the defendant using certain offender risk evaluation and assessment instruments; and (2) his sentence was inappropriate and should be revised.  The Court of Appeals rejected both claims and affirmed in a memorandum decision.  Malenchik v. State, No. 79A02-0902-CR-133 (Ind. Ct. App. June 5, 2009).  We granted transfer to address the first claim and invited supplemental briefs of the parties and amici curiae.  As explained below, we hold that legitimate offender assessment instruments do not replace but may inform a trial court's sentencing determinations and that, because the trial court's consideration of the defendant's assessment model scores was only supplemental to other sentencing evidence that independently supported the sentence imposed, we affirm the sentence.

June 10, 2010 at 01:27 PM | Permalink

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