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No error in sanctions against state

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A trial court didn't clearly err when it dismissed drunk driving charges against a defendant as sanctions for the state's discovery violations, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

In State of Indiana v. Lindsey D. Schmitt, No. 87A04-0903-CR-151, the state appealed Warrick Superior Judge Keith A. Meier's decision to dismiss the criminal misdemeanor charges of operating while intoxicated pending against Lindsey Schmitt. The state claimed it was an error to dismiss the charges as a sanction for a discovery violation absent a showing of deliberate misconduct or bad faith.

But the trial court did consider the state's failure to respond as bad faith to the request for production of the arresting officer's training regarding administration of traffic stops; when he attended the Indiana State Police Academy; certificates or other supporting documentation as to when the arresting officer was last trained in the administration of standardized field sobriety tests; and supporting documentation regarding what National Highway Transportation Safety Administration manual the arresting officer uses and was trained under. According to the record, at the Jan. 16, 2009, hearing on Schmitt's motion to compel, the judge said if the state doesn't respond appropriately, he'd consider it bad faith on the part of the state, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

The state had until Jan. 23, 2009, to produce that information and failed. At a hearing in March 2009 on Schmitt's motion to dismiss the charges, the trial court judge stated he didn't want to dismiss the case, but after a mountain of paperwork and numerous motions, Schmitt still didn't have the information she requested. The judge couldn't figure out why it took the state so long to get this information and noted the state had just started to get it around the time of the March hearing. Judge Meier was frustrated at the situation and said it shouldn't have occurred.

Judge Mathias noted that the state and Judge Meier had a similar discovery dispute involving Schmitt's attorney in another case.

The state was less than diligent in complying with the Jan. 16, 2009, order, and even though it had been warned that noncompliance would be considered bad faith, the state still hadn't provided the requested documents to Schmitt on the date the trial court dismissed the charges, wrote Judge Mathias. The charges against Schmitt had been pending for nearly a year on the date they were dismissed. Based on these facts, the trial court didn't err in dismissing the charges, he wrote.

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