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Trial court erred in denying motion to continue

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A Marion Superior trial court should have granted a woman's motion to continue the day of her bench trial because she had a constitutional right to present a defense to support her involuntary intoxication argument, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided today.

In Jennifer Barber v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0901-CR-34, Jennifer Barber argued the trial court erred in denying her motion because her defense counsel had just located two witnesses who supported her defense of involuntary intoxication the weekend before her trial was to start. Barber was convicted of Class A misdemeanor operating while intoxicated and Class C misdemeanor failure to stop after an accident resulting in property damage.

Barber played pool at an American Legion in Indianapolis and said she only had one vodka martini that night. She claimed she left her drink unattended several times throughout the night. She later got in her car and rear-ended a car and then left the scene of the accident. Barber claimed she doesn't remember anything between the time of playing pool and waking up in the hospital. When arrested, she couldn't stand up and was slurring her words. She consented to a chemical test, but one was never given.

Barber was granted two continuances, the second to allow her to locate witnesses who could testify on her behalf that she was involuntarily intoxicated. It wasn't until the day before her bench trial that her attorney located a key witness - a woman who claimed she too may have been involuntarily drugged that night. The trial court denied the motion to continue because it had set a hard deadline of Dec. 1, 2008, for the witness list; her bench trial was scheduled for Dec. 15.

There's no evidence Barber's attorney acted in bad faith in asking for the continuance and the state would have suffered minimal prejudice in delaying the trial, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. There was obvious prejudice to Barber from not being able to present the testimony of the other woman and another witness.

"In light of Barber's right to present a defense, the strong presumption in favor of allowing the testimony of even late-disclosed witnesses, the lack of substantial prejudice to the State, and the resultant prejudice to Barber, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Barber's motion to continue and therefore remand for a new trial," the judge wrote.

The appellate court also pointed out for remand that the abstract of judgment shows Barber was convicted under Indiana Code Section 9-30-5-1(b), but according to the charging information, she was charged under section 2(b), which requires her to operate a vehicle while intoxicated in a manner that endangers another person. Because the chemical test and blood draw didn't occur, the appellate court was "perplexed" as to why the trial court entered judgment of conviction under 9-30-5-1, wrote Judge Vaidik.

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  1. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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