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Court rules on farm tractor operation case

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Farm tractor drivers can’t be charged with driving with a suspended license, but they can be charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, according to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Those holdings come with today’s ruling in State of Indiana v. Richard J. Laker, Jr. , No. 24A04-0912-CR-736, out of Franklin Circuit Court. Police spotted a white Lexus in a ditch off to the side of the road in Franklin County in 2008, and an officer dispatched to investigate found Edinburgh resident Richard Laker at the scene hitching the car up to the back of a Massey Ferguson farm tractor. The man told police that a friend had wrecked the car and asked him to tow it out of the ditch, and the officer learned that Laker had a suspended driver’s license and also appeared to be intoxicated; a blood test later indicated the man’s blood alcohol content was .10. Laker was arrested.

In a probable cause affidavit attached to the charging information, the officer described the vehicle as the red Massey Ferguson tractor and also referred to that tractor in two information and summons tickets. Laker moved to dismiss the charges based on them being predicated on his operation of the farm tractor, and Circuit Judge Clay Kellerman dismissed all the counts on the grounds that they couldn’t serve as the basis for any of the alleged offenses.

On appeal, the panel affirmed the trial judge on the dismissal of the driving while suspended count because Indiana Code section 9-13-2-105 provides that the term “motor vehicle” “does not include a farm tractor.”

But the panel disagreed on the OWI-specific count, since I.C. § 9-13-2-196 specifics that a “vehicle” is any “device for transportation by land or air” and “in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway.” No farm tractor exemption is detailed in the statute, the court found, stating that only an electric personal assistive mobility device is exempt. The panel also cited State v. Manuwal, 904 N.E.2d 657 (Ind. 2009) that held OWI statutes apply to the operation of all-terrain vehicles.

The appellate panel remanded that latter issue to the trial court.

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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