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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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  2. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  3. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  4. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  5. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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