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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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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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