Man wins right for jury trial to fight traffic ticket

March 11, 2019

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of a man’s demand for a jury trial in his trial de novo after he was found guilty in a city court bench trial. The panel found he did not waive that right by formerly submitting to the bench trial.

After charged with an infraction for speeding in a work zone, Anthony Taylor was ordered to pay more than $300 in fines and court costs in Carmel City Court. Although he did not request a jury trial during those proceedings, Taylor later demanded one pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 38 when he filed a petition for trial de novo with the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts.

Although his demand for a jury trial was initially granted, it was abruptly denied the day before the jury trial was scheduled when the court found his demand to be untimely. It argued that Taylor should have filed the demand shortly after his original case was filed in city court. Thus, the jury trial was vacated, and a bench trial ordered Taylor to pay $300 in fines and $160.50 in court costs.

Taylor appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals. He argued the trial court erred by ruling his demand untimely, asserting that he did not waive his right to a jury trial when he submitted to a bench trial in the Carmel City Court. The appellate court found favor with Taylor’s argument in Anthony G. Taylor v. State of Indiana, 18A-IF-1475, agreeing that his request for a trial de novo was a right to a fresh start supported by Indiana Supreme Court precedent dating to the 19th century in Britton v. Fox, 39 Ind. 369 (1872).

Additionally, the appellate court cited State ex rel. Rodriguez v. Grant Circuit Court,

261 Ind. 642, 309 N.E.2d 145 (1974), dispositive to the case at hand, finding that any submission to court trial in a city court would not have any legal effect on an individual’s right to trial by jury on appeal. It also found that because the two courts were distinctly separate and held different judges, Rodriguez was entitled to a trial by jury.

“We see no meaningful distinction between this case and Rodriguez,” Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote for the panel.Like Rodriguez, Taylor was charged in city court. Like Rodriguez, Taylor submitted to a bench trial in city court. Like Rodriguez, Taylor ‘appealed’ to a county court for a trial de novo. Like Rodriguez, Taylor asked that his trial de novo be to a jury (and he did so promptly, at the same time he requested a trial denovo). And like our Supreme Court held regarding Rodriguez, we hold that Taylor is entitled to a jury trial.”


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