Driving 91 mph in 55 zone supports reckless driving verdict

March 26, 2015

A driver’s argument that his speed of 91 mph on a 55-mph country road was insufficient evidence of endangerment cut no ice with the trial court, and the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed Thursday.

The appeals panel upheld a Class B felony reckless driving conviction as well as a speeding infraction in Marvin Crussel v. State of Indiana, 16A01-1407-CR-304.

“Concluding that the trial court, acting as factfinder, could have reasonably inferred that Crussel’s act of driving ninety-one miles per hour in a fifty-five mile-per-hour zone at around 10:30 p.m. in the dark of night on a portion of a country road that had houses and cross streets endangered the safety and property of others, we affirm his conviction,” Judge Rudy R. Pyle III wrote for the panel.

Crussel moved for a directed verdict in his bench trial before Decatur Superior Judge Matthew D. Bailey, relying on Jackson v. State, 576 N.E.2d 607 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), to support the argument that evidence of endangerment was insufficient to support a conviction for reckless driving. The state cited Taylor v. State, 457 N.E.2d 594 (Ind. Ct. App. 1983), to support its argument that speed alone can support a reckless driving conviction.

The trial court found Crussel guilty of both counts and imposed a $100 fine plus costs.

Pyle wrote that in Jackson, the appeals panel that vacated a reckless driving conviction did not indicate a speed limit or by how much a motorcyclist had exceeded the speed limit, but there was insufficient evidence of endangerment.   

"We agree, in part, with Crussel’s assertion. We generally agree that a defendant’s unreasonably high rate of speed, in and of itself, would not be the sole determining factor when analyzing whether the element of endangerment has been satisfied," Pyle wrote. "We, however, disagree that the evidence was insufficient to support Crussel’s conviction."

"Because there was probative evidence from which the factfinder could have found Crussel guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of Class B misdemeanor reckless driving, we affirm his conviction,” Pyle wrote.



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