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Judges uphold OWI conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today that even though a statute uses the word “and” when saying a driver’s actions, thoughts, and normal control of faculties must be impaired, the state isn’t required to prove all three were impaired in order to get a conviction of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

In Jeffery S. Curtis v. State of Indiana, No. 20A03-1002-CR-110, Jeffery Curtis appealed his Class C misdemeanor conviction of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He was pulled over after taking a turn too wide and failed several field sobriety tests. He smelled of marijuana and blew a 0.0 into the portable breath test. Curtis told the officer he was diabetic and needed some sugar. Curtis declined medical attention and was able to eat and drink at the police station.

Curtis refused to submit to a blood draw and was charged with the offense.

Curtis argued that Indiana Code Section 9-13-2-86 requires that in order for the state to prove a driver is intoxicated, the driver must be under the influence of one of the listed substances and the driver’s actions, thoughts, and normal control of faculties must be impaired. Curtis claimed the tests administered established that only his actions were impaired, but the statute requires showing his thoughts, actions, and normal control of his faculties were impaired.

Although it’s the court’s policy to regard “and” and “or” as used in statutes as being strictly of a conjunctive and disjunctive nature, Prewitt v. State, 878 N.E.2d 184 (Ind. 2007), allows for exceptions, noted Judge Ezra Friedlander. In Prewitt, the high court reasoned that appellate courts are “at liberty to make minor substitutions of words where necessary to give vitality to the legislative intent.”

“We are not often confronted with a situation where application of this ‘widely-accepted rule of statutory construction’ cited with approval in Prewitt is warranted. This is such a case, however, and we apply it here,” wrote Judge Friedlander.

The purpose of the statute is public safety and a person who is unable to control his physical movements poses a considerable danger to others when driving, even though he may be able to carry on a lucid conversation or count backward from 20.

“The plain fact is that impairment of any of the three abilities necessary for the safe operation of a vehicle renders the operation of a vehicle dangerous,” he wrote.

The judges affirmed Curtis’ conviction, finding sufficient evidence to support it.

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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