Split COA reverses denial of habitual traffic violator rulings

November 30, 2015

A divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled against five Lake County motorists who a trial court determined could not be judged habitual traffic violators.

The majority ruled a 2012 statute amendment clarified that in order for someone to be judged a habitual traffic offender, he or she must have committed three qualifying offenses within a 10-year period. A trial court denied the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ HTV petitions in five cases, relying on the date of conviction rather than date of offense.

The 2012 amendment clarified that date of amendment was the basis. The trial court determined, however, that in the cases of Eric C. Gulden, Jeremy Crawford, David J. Klahn, John P. Martin, and James M. Panozzo, applying the 2012 amendment to prior offenses violated ex post facto protections.

Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the majority joined by Judge Robert Altice that the amendment “only sought to clarify the calculation method used in the HTV determination, it did not amend the offense nor alter the penalty and was procedural in nature. … Accordingly, we reverse the trial court.”

Dissenting Judge Elaine Brown would affirm the trial court. She concluded the amendment “changed the elements of the habitual violator offense as to Appellees, that the amendment was not procedural in nature, and that as applied to Appellees the amendment violates the prohibition on ex post facto laws.”

The case is Kent W. Abernathy, Commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Bernard Carter, Prosecuting Attorney for Lake County v. Eric C. Gulden, Jeremy Crawford, David J. Klahn, et. al., 45A03-1503-MI-73.



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