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In affirming DUI on appeal, judges include predictive warning

February 11, 2013

An argument made on appeal in a drunken-driving case that the person who certified the operating condition of a breath-test machine should have been required to testify was rejected Monday by the Indiana Court of Appeals, which also warned in a footnote that such a ruling could cost criminal defendants.

The 31-page opinion in Edwin Jones v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1204-CR-292, affirmed Jones’ Class A misdemeanor conviction on a charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Jones had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent when he was arrested. He argued that because a state trooper testified about the certification of a breath tester rather than the person who signed the certification, he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment rights under the Confrontation Clause.

“We observe that, as a policy matter, were we to agree with Jones and find that certificates of inspection such as the Certification at issue here were testimonial evidence and require that the person who inspected the breath test equipment testify at every OWI trial before breath test results may be admitted, the legislature could respond by removing the statutory requirements currently in place which ensure the accuracy of such equipment, judging it as an undue burden on law enforcement,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote in an opinion joined by judges Mark Bailey and Nancy Vaidik, who concurred in a separate opinion.

The court also found no error in Jones’ sentencing or in the court overruling defense objections to questions of the trooper it considered leading because it concerned facts not in dispute and because “the state presented a multitude of other evidence that he operated a vehicle while intoxicated.”

In her concurring opinion, Vaidik wrote that the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Illinois, 132 S. Ct. 2221, required her to disagree with the majority’s finding as it relates to an earlier Court of Appeals opinion that Vaidik wrote in Ramirez v. State, 928 N.E.2d 214 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010).

“Instead of finding that the certificates of inspection are ‘prepared for purposes of criminal litigation, . . . [but] are not prepared in anticipation of litigation in any particular case or with respect to implicating any specific defendant,’ ... the majority would find that the ‘primary purpose [of the certificates of inspection] is to ensure that certain breath test equipment is in good operating condition in compliance with Ind. Code § 9-30-6-5,’ Vaidik wrote.

“I respectfully disagree with this. I still believe that these certificates of inspection are generally ‘prepared for purposes of criminal litigation.’ Therefore, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Williams, I would simply eliminate the third rationale articulated in Ramirez."
 

 

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