Appellate court reinstates habitual traffic violator charge

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Finding a trial court abused its discretion when it granted a man’s motion to dismiss a Class D felony operating a vehicle as a habitual traffic violator charge, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed and ordered the charge reinstated.

Chad Bryant received notice in 2011 from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles that his license was suspended because he had three unrelated convictions for motor vehicle offenses over the course of ten years. However, the letter from the BMV incorrectly included a charge that had been dismissed. Bryant does, however, have three unrelated convictions within that time frame.

He was pulled over in June 2012 and told police his license was suspended. That’s when the state charged him with operating as a habitual traffic violator. He filed a motion to dismiss, arguing his suspension wasn’t valid in 2012 because the notice informing him of his HTV status was incorrect. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss.

“Here, Bryant argues that, because one of the convictions the BMV listed on its HTV notice was actually a charge that the State dismissed, he did not commit the convictions underlying his HTV determination and there was thus a material error,” Judge Rudolph Pyle III wrote. “Based on the Supreme Court’s decisions in (Starks v. State, 816 N.E.2d 32 (Ind. 2004)), and (State v. Oney, 993 N.E.2d 157 (Ind. 2013)), he contends that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted his motion to dismiss because it could not have convicted him for operating a vehicle as an HTV where there was a material error in the HTV determination. However, we disagree.

"In the instant case, Bryant has not challenged his HTV determination, either through the BMV or judicial review. Accordingly, in line with the preceding judicial precedent, we need not address whether the BMV’s erroneous listing of Bryant’s charges was a material error because we must consider his suspension valid until he directly challenges it. As a result, we conclude that the State properly charged Bryant with Class D felony operating a vehicle as an HTV as a matter of law and that the trial court abused its discretion when it granted Bryant’s motion to dismiss. We reverse the trial court’s dismissal and remand for further proceedings.”

Judge Cale Bradford concurred in result, saying the case could be decided on the basis that Bryant cannot establish his suspension suffers from material error within the meaning of the holding in Oney and that the suspension was invalid.

The case is State of Indiana v. Chad Bryant, 32A01-1306-CR-282.


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