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Justices uphold driver's license suspension

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The Indiana Supreme Court has affirmed the suspension of a man’s driver’s license following his conviction of possessing marijuana. While the driver’s license suspension statute generally applies only when the defendant uses the vehicle in the commission of the offense, it’s not required that the defendant must either own or be driving the vehicle when he commits the offense.

In Michael B. Adams v. State of Indiana, No. 29S02-1109-CR-542, Michael Adams was a passenger in a car pulled over for speeding. The officer smelled burnt marijuana and later discovered a jar of marijuana on the floor of the passenger’s side of the car, where Adams feet would have been. After being found guilty of possession of marijuana, the trial judge suspended Adams’ license and registration for 180 days pursuant to Indiana Code 35-48-4-15(a), believing that the driver’s license suspension statute left her no discretion in the matter even though Adams wasn’t driving the car.

Adams argued that the statute couldn’t have applied to him because he didn’t drive or own the car; the state argued that any use of a vehicle by a defendant requires the court to suspend the defendant’s driver’s license and registration. The justices reached a conclusion in between the parties’ arguments.

The justices concluded that the statute requires proof that the defendant used a motor vehicle, at least in cases in which the defendant’s liability doesn’t turn on an accomplice theory. However, it doesn’t follow that the defendant must either own or be driving the car when he commits the offense, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard. A defendant could use the car by hiding drugs in the trunk or selling drugs out of the window.

“The State must demonstrate that a defendant made more than an incidental use of a motor vehicle in committing his offense, but once the State makes this showing, then a trial court must order the defendant’s driver’s license, registration, and ability to register other vehicles suspended. The court may exercise its discretion only in setting the length of that suspension,” he wrote.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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