COA affirms lifetime suspension of driving rights

December 7, 2016

A man who was caught driving with a suspended license cannot challenge the legality of the lifetime suspension of his driving privileges because the law in effect at the time of his arrest required the lifetime suspension, the Indiana Court of Appeals found Wednesday.

In November 2014, a police officer stooped Albert Burton’s vehicle for a burned-out headlight and learned that Burton’s driving privileges had been suspended as a habitual traffic violator. Burton was charged with a Level 6 felony and was found to be in violation of Indiana Code 9-30-10-16, which required at the time that a person conviction of felony driving with a suspended license “forfeits the privilege of operating a motor vehicle for life.”

That portion of the statute was repealed in July 2015, and sometime thereafter Burton agreed to plead guilty to the Level 6 felony. During his sentencing hearing in December 2015, Burton argued that his driving privileges could not be suspended for life because that portion of the statute was no longer law.

The Marion Superior Court disagreed and initially imposed a lifetime suspension of Burton’s driving privileges. However, at Burton’s request, the trial court chose to stay entry of judgement so that he could file an interlocutory appeal of the lifetime suspension.

In his appeal, Burton again argued that the lifetime suspension rule could not apply to him because it was repealed after he committed the offense but before his was sentenced.  But the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s judgment Wednesday, affirming the decision to suspend Burton’s driving privileges for the rest of his life.

“As a general rule, the law in effect when a crime was committed is controlling,” Judge Terry Crone wrote. “There are exceptions to this rule, but Burton does not assert, let alone offer any cogent argument, that any of those exceptions apply here.”

The case of Albert Burton v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1602-CR-242, was remanded with instructions to enter judgment against Burton according to the appellate court opinion.


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