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Appellate court rules statute not unconstitutional

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The presumption found in Indiana Code Section 9-30-10-16, which governs driving while privileges are suspended, isn't unconstitutional because it doesn't shift the burden of proof from the state, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Even though Jacob Donaldson waived his appeal of the constitutionality of the statute in Jacob A. Donaldson v. State of Indiana, No. 71A03-0811-CR-564, the appellate court still addressed the issue in Donaldson's appeal of his conviction of operating a motor vehicle while privileges are suspended as a Class A misdemeanor.

Over the course of nearly six months, Donaldson received driving suspension notices for various reasons with various suspension dates. He also received a notice of reinstatement during that time, but the notice didn't specify any of Donaldson's suspensions. He was pulled over for speeding and charged with operating a motor vehicle while suspended as a habitual offender, a Class D felony.

During a bench trial, a habitual traffic violator packet was admitted over Donaldson's objection. The trial court also rejected his argument he was confused by all the notices and concluded a reasonable person could have contacted the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to figure out the status of his driving privileges. At his sentencing hearing, his conviction was reduced to the Class A misdemeanor.

On appeal, Donaldson argued I.C. Section 9-30-10-16(b) is unconstitutional because it mandates a presumption of knowledge of suspension if the state can show the BMV mailed notice of the suspension to the defendant's last known address. Despite the waiver, the appellate court addressed his argument and found the statute isn't unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals cited Thompson v. State, 646 N.E.2d 687 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995), and Chilcutt v. State, 544 N.E.2d 856 (Ind. Ct. App. 1989), to support its finding that the presumption in the statute at issue is permissive and not mandatory.

"In light of our decisions in Chilcutt and Thompson, the statute must be read to declare that, upon proof of one fact, service of the suspension by first class mail at the defendant's last shown address, the defendant's knowledge of the suspension may be presumed or inferred, but this presumption can be rebutted," wrote Judge Patricia Riley.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed the admittance of the HTV packet because it wasn't purported to be a complete copy of Donaldson's driving record but was just a copy of the record requested by the state. The state only requested the HTV packet and that was admitted, wrote Judge Riley.

There is also sufficient evidence to support Donaldson's convictions because the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt he knew his driving privileges were suspended.

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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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