In this case, the Indiana Court of Appeals dismissed a criminal appeal on the grounds that the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction because the order that the Defendant was attempting to appeal was not a final order. Specifically, the Court of Appeals found that because the trial court had not yet held the restitution hearing and issued the order on restitution, the Defendant’s convictions for aggravated battery could not yet be appealed. The Court relied on its recent decision in Haste v. State, 967 N.E.2d 576 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), in which the Court of Appeals also dismissed an appeal where the trial court had entered a sentencing order but took the issue of restitution under advisement.
The Court of Appeals also took this opportunity to comment on trial courts’ common practice of imposing a sentence but taking the issue of restitution under advisement. The Court noted that this practice “can prove to be problematic—as it has in this case—because it delays a defendant’s ability to begin an appeal due to the fact that a final order has not been entered.” The Court of Appeals explained that “the best practice would be for trial courts to enter an order of restitution at the same time as sentencing.”
The other interesting issue in this appeal was that the motions panel had denied the State’s motion to dismiss based on the same arguments that led this panel of the Court of Appeals to dismiss the opinion. The Court of Appeals noted that although the Court is generally “reluctant” to overrule orders issued by the motions panel, the panel of the Court of Appeals that decides the case always has the inherent authority to reconsider a motions panel’s decision.
This decision is important for both trial and appellate counsel. It clarifies the time at which a criminal sentencing order becomes ripe for appeal and instructs trial counsel and trial courts that the best procedure is to have a restitution order issued at the same time as a sentencing order.