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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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