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Court rules on mistaken statutory language

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A mistaken statutory provision has led to a reversal of a decision by a trial court judge from Wells County.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday in State of Indiana v. Skylor Gearlds, No. 90A02-1105-CR-433.

In September 2010, the state charged Skylor Gearlds with Class A misdemeanor operating a motor vehicle while suspended based on a previous violation within the past 10 years. Gearlds had previously been convicted in April 2009 of OWI while suspended as an infraction. Specifically, the statute at issue is Indiana Code 9-24-19-2 that was added in 2000 after a preceding statute was repealed.

Wells Superior Judge Everett Goshorn dismissed the misdemeanor because the statute contains a mistaken cross-reference to statutes that no longer exist. Basically, it allows for a driving while suspended infraction to be enhanced when the driver either has a previous OWI conviction or when that previous conviction is within 10 years of the commission of any previous criminal offense.

The judge issued an order that said the statute erroneously refers to “subdivision (1)” rather than the unnumbered first paragraph of the statute and doesn’t define a criminal offense. The statute must be strictly construed, regardless of the intention of the Legislature, and the judge found no viable criminal charge for driving while suspended as a Class A misdemeanor exists under that statute.

The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that to be an error because the statute remains enforceable as written.

“We conclude that although there is a mistake in the statute, it is clear that the legislature did not intend to elevate all driving while suspended offenses with prior convictions but rather only intended to elevate those offenses where the offender had a prior conviction within 10 years of the new offense,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote. “Put differently, the statute was intended to proscribe less conduct than the literal words of the statute do.”

Although the provision is a mistake, the intent remains to create an enhanced penalty for those who have a prior unrelated judgment for driving without a license within the past 10 years.

“This was merely an oversight that carried over from the old statute,” she wrote. “We presume that the legislature intended for the language to be applied logically and consistent with the underlying goals and policies of the statute. Moreover, we will not presume that the legislature intended to do a useless thing.”

The appellate court wrote that the Indiana General Assembly should amend IC 9-24-19-2 to remove the erroneous language to avoid any future litigation on this issue.
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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