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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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