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Indiana Supreme Court revises drug-related sentence

The Indiana Supreme Court revised an Orange County sentence at the end of 2018 for a nonviolent drug offender. 

“She’s an extraordinary person and I’m thrilled the Supreme Court recognized that,” Jennifer Culotta, the defendant’s lawyer, said. 

In 2013, Lisa Livingston was a 40-something woman with a drug addiction making meth to support her habit, Culotta said. 

After she was arrested and while her case made its way through the Orange County courts from 2013 to 2018, Livingston recovered from her addiction. 

“She pulled herself up by her own bootstraps,” Culotta said.

She also started a halfway house for women in her community in New Albany, Indiana, called The BreakAway.

“She is the type of client that we in the judicial system should applaud, not punish,” Culotta said. “She pulled herself up and changed not only her course but was assisting in changing the lives of others.”

In March 2018, Livingston was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to dealing meth and other charges from her August 2013 arrest.

Before the sentencing, Culotta said she and other attorneys had several meetings with the court and prosecution about the potential for Livingston to be sentenced to community corrections instead of prison time.

Community corrections programs are similar to probation, but are usually managed through the Department of Corrections and often involve a treatment component. 

Culotta said she believes sentencing nonviolent drug crime offenders to prison time isn’t the best way to address the opioid addiction crisis. 

Orange County, where Livingston’s case was heard, does not have a community corrections program. However, Floyd County, where Livingston lives, does. Culotta said it’s common for probation or community corrections sentences to be transferred to the county where the person lives.

After the trial court sentenced Livingston to prison time, Culotta appealed the case and it made its way to the state Supreme Court.

The Indiana Supreme Court can’t hear all of the cases that are sent to them for review, but it agreed to review Livingston’s sentence.

Culotta said they hoped the state Supreme Court would give them the sentence they had asked the trial court for — the mandatory minimum of 23 years but served through the community corrections program.

The state Supreme Court granted the sentence Culotta wanted Dec. 28, 2018, overturning the trial court.

“When you have an extraordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, extraordinary things should occur,” Culotta said. 

In the next few weeks, the Orange County trial court should issue a new order with the revised sentence and Livingston will be released.

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