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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. Such things are no more elections than those in the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

  2. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  3. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  4. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  5. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

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