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Judge argues state must prove actual endangerment

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The Indiana Court of Appeals split Monday regarding a man’s conviction of misdemeanor operating while intoxicated, with Judge Terry Crone arguing the statute requires the state to prove actual endangerment of the driver or others, not just the possibility of it.

Gregory E. Staten challenged his conviction of Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person and the finding he committed a Class C infraction failing to obey a stop sign. He was also convicted of Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more and Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated, but those two convictions were later tossed out.

Indiana State Trooper Joshua Greer saw Staten drive his car left of center and through a 3-way stop sign on a school access road. Staten failed field sobriety tests and consented to a chemical test, which showed a BAC of 0.15 percent.

In Gregory E. Staten v. State of Indiana, No. 87A04-1005-CR-393, the three judges vacated the Class C traffic infraction and $5 fine, noting the state conceded that as charged, the evidence was insufficient to prove Staten committed the infraction.

The majority upheld his remaining conviction over Staten’s arguments that the BAC test results were inadmissible because the traffic stop was illegal. The state conceded Staten didn’t violate I.C. Section 9-21-8-32 because the stop sign wasn’t at an entrance to a through highway, but claimed the traffic stop was legal pursuant to I.C. Section 9-21-4-11 because the Indiana Department of Transportation erected the 3-way stop sign there. As a result, the state claimed he violated I.C. Section 9-21-4-18 which says a person must obey signs posted under this chapter.

Judges Cale Bradford and James Kirsch found there was sufficient evidence to determine Staten committed a traffic violation under I.C. Section 9-21-4-18, giving Greer the legal right to stop Staten’s car.

The majority held that the state must prove that Staten was operating his car in a manner that could have endangered anyone, including himself. Greer testified that he saw Staten drive left of center and drive through the stop sign. This is sufficient to support his conviction.

Judge Crone dissented regarding Staten’s Class A misdemeanor OWI endangering a person conviction. There’s no evidence that the DOT erected the stop sign at the intersection, as required by I.C. 9-21-4-11, or whether the access road was open to the public and used for vehicular travel. The traffic stop was invalid, Judge Crone concluded, so his OWI conviction should be vacated.

In addition, Judge Crone said there isn’t sufficient evidence supporting that Staten drove his car in a way that endangered someone.

“With all due respect to my colleagues and the public policy concerns expressed in cases like Outlaw, Krohn, and Staley, I believe that the plain language of the statute requires the State to prove that a defendant operated his vehicle in a manner that actually endangered a person,” he wrote.

In this case, Judge Crone would vacate this conviction and order Staten’s Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.15 or more be reinstated if not for the invalid traffic stop.  
 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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