ILNews

Court upholds drunk ATV driver ruling

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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A driver of an ATV shouldn't be prosecuted for driving under the influence on his own property because charges were brought under the wrong statute, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

In State of Indiana v. Adam L. Manuwal, No. 50A05-0703-CR-182, the state charged Manuwal with OWI with an alcohol concentration equivalent of at least .15 after he had crashed an ATV he was operating on his own property. Manuwal was injured as a result of the accident and while at the hospital, his blood was drawn to determine his blood-alcohol content.

Manuwal filed a verified petition for a motion to dismiss, challenging the legality of the "arrest, detention, and seizure." The trial court granted his petition on the grounds he operated his ATV on his own private property, away from the public roadway, and his actions didn't impact the public's safety, so he shouldn't be charged for operating while intoxicated. The state appealed.

The state contends the petition should be reversed because the police officer at the scene believed Manuwal committed offenses that would fall under the OWI statutes, Indiana Code 9-30-5-1 and -2, and these statutes don't restrict the offenses to only public thoroughfares.

Chief Judge John Baker, citing State v. Greenwood, wrote that the off-road statute should apply to Manuwal's case because when two statutes with similar subject matter cannot be harmonized, the more detailed statute should prevail. Because there is no requirement for an off-road vehicle driver to have a driver's license to drive on private property, unlike the OWI statute, the court concluded the trial court properly granted the motion to dismiss because he was improperly charged under the OWI statutes.

Judge Nancy Vaidik dissented in a separate opinion, writing that the majority altered the stated issue of the appeal. The original issue was whether the OWI statutes would apply to conduct committed on private property, which I.C. 9-30-5-9 clarifies. It states, "It is not a defense in an action under this chapter that the accused person was operating a vehicle in a place other than on a highway."

Instead, the majority turned the issue into one about prosecutorial direction, Judge Vaidik wrote, which she believed resulted into an incorrect application of the law.

"...The language of Indiana Code chapter 9-30-5 expressly allows for charges of Operating While Intoxicated for driving intoxicated while off-highway, ...I believe that it is clear under our case law that the prosecutor in this case had the discretion to charge Manuwal under either statute. Manuwal was not improperly charged," she wrote.
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  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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