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COA split on whether scooter is 'motor vehicle'

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was divided in a case involving a man who was convicted of driving a motor vehicle while his privileges were suspended, with one judge agreeing with the state that the defendant’s scooter qualified as a motor vehicle under statute.

Michael Lock was pulled over while driving his Yamaha Zuma. Lock drove past an Indiana State Trooper at 43 mph, and the trooper saw the scooter didn’t have a license plate. The trooper discovered Lock’s driving privileges were suspended and arrested him.

Lock argued that his scooter wasn’t a motor vehicle under Indiana Code 9-30-10-16, which is required to prove he committed Class D felony operating a vehicle while suspended. He said the Zuma is a motorized bicycle, which is exempt from the provisions of statutes regarding operation of a motor vehicle while privileges are suspended.

The majority didn’t hold that the Zuma is a motorized bicycle but did agree that the state didn’t prove it is a motor vehicle. The statutory definition of “motor vehicle” does not include a motorized bicycle for purposes of I.C. 9-30-10. A motorized bicycle is defined as having a maximum design speed of no more than 25 mph on a flat surface. The Indiana Legislature has not defined “maximum design speed,” nor did the state provide a definition at trial or on appeal, wrote Judge Melissa May.

“In the absence of any such guidance, we decline the State’s invitation to speculate that a vehicle capable of travelling 43 miles per hour necessarily must have a ‘maximum design speed’ over 25 miles per hour. We may not affirm a conviction based on mere speculation,” she wrote in Michael J. Lock v. State of Indiana, No. 35A04-1010-CR-641.

“If the law enforcement officer and the State, both responsible for enforcing a law, cannot determine whether a vehicle meets the statutory elements, it arguably may be impossible for a layperson to determine whether driving that vehicle comports with the law. Nevertheless, as the State did not prove the elements of the offense, we need not address vagueness,” she wrote in a footnote.

Judge John Baker dissented, finding it’s reasonable to infer that the Zuma has a maximum design speed of more than 25 mph. The trooper clocked Lock driving the scooter at 43 mph, and the statutes provide that if the vehicle is designed to go faster than 25 mph, it’s a “motor vehicle” for purposes of the charged offense. Judge Baker cited Annis v. State, 917 N.E.2d 722 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), in which the defendant was driving a vehicle with a cylinder capacity in excess of that permitted under the motorized bicycle statute, and the defendant was driving it uphill at 41 mph.

The majority found the instant case distinguishable from Annis because that vehicle had a cylinder capacity larger than permitted by statute, so the vehicle wasn’t a motorized bicycle based on its cylinder capacity, regardless of its speed.
 

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  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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