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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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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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