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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.