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Trial court improperly suspended driving privileges for life

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A Marion Superior Court exceeded statutory authority when it suspended a man’s driving privileges for life, the Indiana Court of Appeals has held. At the time Thomas Porter was arrested and charged, his driving privileges were suspended for life, but that was no longer the case when he was sentenced.

In Thomas Porter v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1205-CR-398, Thomas Porter was pulled over by a police officer because the officer was unable to read Porter’s license plate from 50 feet away based on poor lighting around the plate. He was charged with Class D felony operating a motor vehicle while being a habitual traffic violator and Class C felony operating a motor vehicle after his license had been forfeited for life.

Porter filed a motion to suppress and challenged every stage of the encounter. He claimed the lights had never been modified, and he could see the license plate in person. Photographs introduced by the state showed a shadow over part of the plate.

The judge found Porter guilty of the Class C felony and dismissed the other count out of double jeopardy concerns. At his sentencing hearing, the judge learned that Porter’s conviction in an arrest in 2008 in another county had been reduced to a misdemeanor, so his license was no longer suspended for life. The state sought to suspend Porter’s license for life, which the trial court granted.

“The record reveals evidence that Officer Montgomery had a reasonable and objectively justifiable basis for making the initial traffic stop. Even assuming that Porter’s vehicle met federal regulations, we cannot say that Officer Montgomery lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop of Porter’s vehicle when he could not see the license plate from fifty feet away,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote.

The judges looked at Indiana Code 9-30-10-16 and -17 and found Section 17 does not provide for a lifetime suspension.

“Mindful that penal statutes should be construed strictly against the State, that ambiguities should be resolved in favor of the accused, and that the judicial function is to apply the laws as enacted by the legislature, we conclude that the trial court exceeded statutory authority and improperly suspended Porter’s driving privileges for life,” Brown wrote.

The case is remanded for further proceedings.

 

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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