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COA reverses conviction after BMV stumbles over address

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A driver whose conduct was “clearly blameworthy” had his conviction overturned after the Indiana Court of Appeals found the state’s evidence did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver knew his license was suspended.

Israel Cruz was charged with operating a vehicle while suspended as a habitual traffic violator after he was pulled over for speeding while the HTV suspension was in effect. At a bench trial, Cruz admitted he knew he was not supposed to drive because he did not have an Indiana driver’s license; however, he denied having any knowledge of the HTV suspension.

The trial court ruled the state met its burden because the defendant did not rebut the presumption that he knew his license was suspended. Cruz was convicted of a Class A misdemeanor and sentenced to 365 days, all suspended to probation except for time served.

In Israel Cruz v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1204-CR-301, the COA reversed Cruz’s conviction because the evidence was not sufficient to show Cruz knew he was suspended.

Cruz asserts this case raises an issue of first impression regarding the meaning of “last address shown” in I.C. 9-30-10-16(b) when the driver has never held a license.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles sent notice of an HTV suspension to Cruz in 2011 to 3518 Steer St., Indianapolis. Cruz testified he did not live at that address so he never received the notice, and the BMV could not to explain why it used that location.

The court records submitted into evidence show three different addresses for Cruz, but none list the 3518 Steer St. residence. A BMV employee surmised the state agency probably obtained the address from the documentation generated from Cruz’s first traffic violation in 2004.

However, the COA ruled the employee was “simply guessing” and that the other addresses in the HTV packet were all more recent than 2004. The court noted although there is ample evidence that Cruz knew he had never received a license and that he was not supposed to drive, driving without having received a license is a separate offense than driving while suspended. Yet, the state chose not to charge him with driving without having received a license.

“In conclusion, though Cruz’s conduct is clearly blameworthy, the evidence presented by the State was not sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew that he was suspended,” Judge Terry Crone wrote for the court.

 

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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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