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Toxicology lab witness’s failure to appear dooms drunken-driving conviction

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A Tennessee man’s drunken-driving conviction in Shelby Superior Court was tossed because his trial took place more than a year after his arrest, largely due to a toxicology lab worker’s failure to appear for scheduled depositions, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

Shelbyville police arrested Halden Martin in the early morning of July 17, 2010, on Interstate 74 as he crossed over the center line several times. Martin told police he had been drinking at Indiana Grand Casino for several hours.

Martin failed field sobriety tests but refused to submit to a breath test. He was arrested and charged with Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated. A search warrant was obtained for a blood test, but court documents show the State Department of Toxicology didn’t return blood-test results for almost eight months.

After multiple continuances attributable to both side, Martin moved in March 2012 to dismiss pursuant to Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C) because 608 days had passed. The trial court denied the motion, and at a bench trial in June 2012 convicted Martin and sentenced him to a year in prison with all but 30 days suspended to probation.

But Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the court in Halden Martin v. State of Indiana, 73A01-1207-CR-300, that the key delays came when a state witness from the toxicology department failed to show for scheduled depositions.

“What this boils down to is what party should bear the responsibility of a State’s witness not showing up to two scheduled depositions at which the witness was subpoenaed both times. Martin says the State Department of Toxicology told him that Anderson was ‘unavailable’ both times, and the State does not offer a contrary explanation on appeal,” Vaidik wrote.

“We find that the balance tips in favor of Martin and therefore conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in charging the delay to him,” Vaidik wrote, recalculating the delay to 476 days. “Because the days that count toward the Rule 4(C) period exceed 365, the trial court should have granted Martin’s motion for discharge. We therefore reverse the trial court and remand for vacation of his conviction.”

 

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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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