COA upholds admission of blood draw, lay testimony in OWI case

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A driver who injured a motorcyclist during a pursuit has failed to convince the Court of Appeals of Indiana to throw out his OWI conviction on evidentiary grounds.

In 2021, appellant-defendat Kriss Bauman struck a motorcycle with his truck and injured the rider. Bauman initially reported to police that the motorcycle had overtaken him and cut in front of his truck, and he used his brakes. However, a witness claimed to have stepped out of their home and witnessed the truck following the motorcycle.

No one saw the impact, but a motorist traveling in the opposite direction saw Bauman’s truck come out of the curve where the collision occurred. A witness saw the motorcycle fly out from under the truck and settle in a ditch, with significant damage and scattering debris reported. The passing motorist called the authorities and stopped to pick up the motorcyclist’s helmet.

Bauman and the two witnesses remained at the scene of the collision while the motorcyclist was transported to the hospital via helicopter.

Bauman later told Officer Jones from the Kendallville Police Department that the motorcycle had been stolen from his friend, so he had been following it in an attempt to retrieve it. After being put in the back of a squad car, Deputy Chase Gibson from the Noble County Sheriff’s Department asked Bauman if he knew the motorcyclist, and Bauman said yes.

Gibson then asked Bauman to get out of the car and read him his Miranda rights. He also told Bauman that he wasn’t under arrest but that he didn’t want him leaving, so Bauman stayed.

Gibson later brought a bottle of water to Bauman, who put his foot in the door. Gibson told him to put his foot back in the car, but he told Gibson it was hot in the car and that he didn’t plan on going anywhere.

Claiming Bauman was “making him nervous,” the deputy put him in handcuffs but again said he wasn’t under arrest. Bauman asked for an officer to tell his wife “Thonert,” his attorney, but the record suggests police did not relay the message.

Gibson then read Bauman the Indiana implied-consent law and asked if he would take a chemical test. Bauman told the deputy he needed to call his lawyer, but Gibson responded by saying Bauman didn’t have the right to an attorney because he wasn’t under arrest. He also informed Bauman that if he didn’t consent to a blood draw, they would seek a warrant. Bauman then consented.

Bauman was taken to a hospital, where a blood draw indicated he had amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.

He was subsequently charged with aggravated battery and operating a vehicle while intoxicated resulting in serious bodily injury, a Level 5 felony. He filed a motion to suppress, which was denied, and he was eventually convicted on the OWI charge.

The Noble Circuit Court sentenced Bauman to five years executed in the Department of Correction.

On appeal, Bauman argued the trial court erred when it admitted the results of the warrantless blood draw. Affirming, the COA noted he had consented to the draw.

Bauman also argued the trial court erred by allowing a lay witness to testify to his opinions regarding the intent of the drivers.

The COA determined any error in allowing that testimony was harmless.

“Such testimony would be probative of the mens rea associated with the aggravated battery charge, but Bauman was acquitted on that count. He, thus, suffered no prejudice as a result of the lay witness testimony,” Judge Peter Foley wrote.

The case is Kriss Eugene Bauman II v. State of Indiana, 22A-CR-20.

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