COA rejects BMV’s request for relief from judgment

The state of Indiana did not establish prima facie error in the trial court’s denial of its motions for relief from judgment in two cases in which the lower court ordered the reinstatement of drivers’ licenses without proof of future financial responsibility, the Court of Appeals held Thursday.

Chad Mooney and Brittany McCool had their driver’s licenses suspended following operating while intoxicated offenses. Both subsequently requested their driving privileges reinstated without providing proof of future financial responsibility, as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles contended was necessary to reinstate their licenses. The lower courts granted Mooney and McCool’s requests.

The BMV intervened and filed motions for relief from judgment in both cases on Nov. 25, 2014, several months after the license requests were granted. It maintained that I.C. 9-30-6-12 required proof of financial responsibility after a license has been suspended for failing a chemical test. The trial court disagreed with the BMV’s interpretation and denied both motions.

In a consolidated appeal, the state invoked subsections (B)(1) and (B)(8) of Trial Rule 60, which permit relief upon a showing of “mistake, surprise, or excusable neglect,” or any other reason warranting relief from judgment. Mooney and McCool did not file briefs in the matter, leaving review for prima facie error.

Judge Margret Robb noted that the state did not identify any “mistake, surprise, or excusable neglect” it suffered or any other reason justifying relief from the judgment in its briefs.

“With regard to the basis for the trial court’s denial, the State relies on the trial court’s remark indicating its disagreement with the BMV’s interpretation of the relevant statute. Although the comment certainly suggests the trial court did not believe the State had a ‘meritorious claim or defense,’ it does not relief the State’s burden of establishing ‘the procedural, equitable grounds justifying relief,’” Robb wrote.

“The State failed to identify any circumstances warranting relief under Trial Rule 60(B)(1) or (B)(8), and its motions addressed only the legal merits of the judgments. We will not entertain the State’s attempt to resurrect an untimely appeal.”

The case is State of Indiana v. Chad T. Mooney, Brittany McCool, 82A04-1505-CR-266.

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