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Appeals court reverses vacation of habitual traffic violator status

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A trial court erred when it set aside a man’s 2002 guilty plea on a charge of operating a vehicle while a habitual traffic violator, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

The state appealed Marion Superior Judge Reuben Hill’s order that vacated Russell Oney’s guilty plea to the Class D felony charge on the grounds that the conviction had been reversed in post-conviction relief proceedings.

In State of Indiana v. Russell Oney 49A05-1204-CR-196, the appellate court agreed with the state’s argument that the court erred in vacating the plea.

Oney pleaded guilty to the HTV charge after he was stopped while driving during a 10-year suspension that had been the result of three drunken-driving convictions between 1986 and 1991. The suspension period set by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles began in February 1994.

In 2010, Oney was granted post-conviction relief from a 1989 drunken-driving conviction in Floyd County that expunged the offense from his record. He then asked the Marion County court to set aside his HTV conviction, which it did.

“The BMV’s determination in 1994 that Oney was an HTV was based on three predicate convictions and did not constitute manifest injustice. Nor did the BMV err, materially or procedurally, when it determined that Oney was an HTV in 1994. As such, when Oney operated a vehicle in 1999, despite his HTV status and resulting conviction, he was flaunting the law, even though one of the predicate convictions to his HTV status was later vacated,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the unanimous panel.

“As such, we reverse and remand the trial court’s order granting post-conviction relief to Oney, vacating his HTV conviction, and allowing him to withdraw his guilty plea to that offense.”

 

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