Knight v. State, 20A-CR-268, __ N.E.3d __ (Ind. Ct. App., Sep. 15, 2020).

Pyle, J.

James T. Knight (“Knight”)—who is a licensed Indiana attorney and who pled guilty to Class A misdemeanor battery in exchange for the dismissal of two felony criminal confinement charges, a felony domestic battery charge, and a misdemeanor domestic battery charge—appeals the trial court’s order amending the conditions of his probation pursuant to INDIANA CODE § 35-38-2- 1.8. Knight argues that the trial court abused its discretion and committed fundamental error when it amended his probation conditions to include a community service condition, requiring Knight to complete 600 hours of service during his one-year probationary period and to report his hours to probation on a monthly basis. Knight raises procedural challenges under INDIANA CODE § 35-38-2-1.8 to the trial court’s imposition of the community service condition and a substantive challenge to the condition.

We conclude that the trial court complied with the procedural requirements of INDIANA CODE § 35-38-2-1.8 when it held a new probation hearing. We, however, conclude that—under the specific facts of this case—the imposition of the community service probation condition was beyond the trial court’s discretion where that condition was not specified in Knight’s plea agreement and where the plea agreement contained language that limited the trial court’s discretion to impose that condition. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s imposition of the community service probation condition.

We reverse.

Knight argues that the trial court abused its discretion and committed fundamental error when it amended his probation conditions to include the Community Service Condition. Specifically, Knight contends that: (1) the trial court abused its discretion because it sua sponte amended his probation conditions before holding a hearing; (2) the trial court abused its discretion by ordering an amount of community service that was coercive and unrelated to his rehabilitation; (3) the trial court abused its discretion by imposing new probation conditions when there was no probation violation, no change in the law, and no change in his circumstances; and (4) the trial court committed fundamental error by denying him a right to allocution during the hearing. Three of Knight’s four arguments relate to the procedural aspect of the new probation hearing, while the remaining argument is an attack on the substance of the Community Correction Condition. Accordingly, we will review his arguments according to these procedural and substantive aspects.

We first turn to Knight’s argument that the trial court’s modification of his probation conditions was procedurally improper because the trial court sua sponte amended his probation conditions before holding a hearing.

Contrary to Knight’s argument, the record on appeal reveals that the trial court amended the probation conditions and issued its Amended Probation Order after holding the new probation hearing…Thus, the trial court complied with the requirements of INDIANA CODE § 35-38-2-1.8(c) for modifying Knight’s probation conditions.

Next, we address Knight’s contention that the trial court improperly imposed the new probation condition when there was no probation violation, no change in the law, and no change in his circumstances.

The plain language of INDIANA CODE § 35-38-2-1.8 shows that Knight’s argument is without merit. Specifically, subsection (a) provides that a trial court “may hold a new probation hearing at any time during a probationer’s probationary period[,]” while subsection (d) provides that a trial “court may hold a new probation hearing under this section even if: (1) the probationer has not violated the conditions of probation; or (2) the probation department has not filed a petition to revoke probation.” I.C. § 35-38-2-1.8(a),(d) (format altered). Moreover, this Court has interpreted INDIANA CODE § 35-38-2-1.8 and held that, under this statute, “probation can be altered at any time, even in the absence of a probation violation.” Collins, 911 N.E.2d at 708.

We next review Knight’s substantive challenge to the Community Service Condition. Knight challenges both the imposition of community service as a condition of probation and the amount of service hours imposed. Specifically, he argues that the imposition of “600 hours of labor is coercive and punitive and not designed to serve the goal of rehabilitation.” (Knight’s Br. 13).

“‘As a general proposition trial courts have broad discretion in setting conditions of probation, subject to appellate review only for an abuse of discretion.’” Berry v. State, 10 N.E.3d 1243, 1246 (Ind. 2014) (quoting Freije v. State, 709 N.E.2d 323, 324 (Ind. 1999). “But ‘[i]f the court accepts a plea agreement, it shall be bound by its terms,’ thus limiting the court’s otherwise-broad discretion in ordering conditions of probation.” Berry, 10 N.E.3d at 1246 (quoting Freije, 709 N.E.2d at 324 (quoting I.C. § 35-35-3-3(e))) (substitution original to Freije).

Knight’s plea agreement—which was accepted by the trial court—contains language giving the trial court broad discretion to impose conditions of probation. However, the plea agreement contains additional language that limits the trial court’s discretion upon a completion of a condition precedent. Specifically, the broad language in Knight’s plea agreement provided: “Terms and conditions of probation are to be at the Court’s discretion, but shall include restitution in the amount of $1405.00 for medical expenses incurred; completion of alcohol/substance abuse program.” (App. Vol. 2 at 63) (emphasis added). However, the plea agreement also contains the following language: “Upon proof of payment of restitution, costs and fees and submission of proof of alcohol/substance abuse counseling, [Knight’s] probation shall automatically change to informal, non-reporting probation.” (App. Vol. 2 at 63). Thus, while the initial language in Knight’s plea agreement confers broad discretion to the trial court to impose probation conditions such as community service, the later language—providing that Knight’s probation would revert to nonreporting probation—ultimately imposes a limitation on the trial court’s discretion to order a probation condition that would require Knight to report to probation.

Here, the trial court modified Knight’s probation conditions to include the Community Service Condition, which required Knight to perform 600 hours of community service, with a minimum of fifty hours per month, during the remaining portion of his one-year probationary term and to submit proof of his service to the probation department on a monthly basis. However, at the time the trial court imposed this Community Service Condition, Knight had already completed his substance abuse counseling and had paid restitution, costs, and fees. Thus, per the terms of Knight’s plea agreement, his probation was nonreporting…Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion by modifying Knight’s probation to include the Community Service Condition.

In summary, we conclude that the trial court complied with the procedural requirements of INDIANA CODE § 35-38-2-1.8 when it held a new probation hearing. We, however, conclude that the imposition of the Community Service Condition was beyond the trial court’s discretion where the plea agreement contained language that limited the trial court’s discretion to impose that condition. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s imposition of the Community Service Condition.

Reversed.

Bradford, C.J., and Baker, Sr.J., concur.

 

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