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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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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