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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ind. Decisions - "Property owners may want to be thinking twice about drinking and driving, even on their own land"

The Supreme Court's decision April 8th in the case of State of Indiana v. Adam L. Manuwal (see ILB summary here) is the subject of a story today by Carol Anders in the Plymouth Pilot News:

CULVER — A unanimous ruling handed down Wednesday from the Indiana Supreme Court may have property owners thinking twice about drinking and driving, even on their own land.

The ruling reversed a decision made in 2007 by Marshall County Judge Dean A. Colvin.

In June, 2006 Culver resident Adam Manuwal, suffered fractures and head trauma after wrecking an all-terrain vehicle approximately 300 yards from his cabin on his private property.

An officer from the DNR (Indiana Department of Natural Resources) suspected that Manuwal had been consuming alcohol prior to the accident. Blood samples were drawn at the hospital to determine if the suspicion was correct.

Manuwal was then charged with two class A misdemeanors, Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Person and Operating a Vehicle with an Alcohol Concentration Equivalent of .15 or More.

Manuwal’s attorney, James Clevenger, filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the OWI statue of Indiana does not apply to driving on one’s own property. Clevenger argued that the statute defines an “operator” as one who drives the vehicle “upon a highway” and that “highway” is defined as “every publicly maintained way when any part of the way is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel”.

Judge Colvin ruled that the evidence could be suppressed.

Indiana codes allow the State to appeal from “an order granting a motion to suppress evidence, if the ultimate effect of the order is to preclude further prosecuting.”

The following is included in the ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court: “The State contends that the language of the criminal statues at issue does not restrict their application exclusively to vehicles driven on public thoroughfares and the Indiana’s strong interest in protecting its citizens extends equally to private property.”

A later notation in the ruling states: “The General Assembly has been emphatic, explicit and unequivocal. It is not a defense in an action under (statute) that the accused person was operating a vehicle in a place other than on a highway.”

The ruling also briefly addressed a second point included in Clevenger’s brief. The ruling states: “The defendant’s brief makes a passing assertion that extending the OWI provisions to (the defendant’s) own private property violates (his) constitutional rights.”

A notation included said, “The defendant further argues that his trial court challenge asserted the absence of probable cause to order a blood test of the defendant. We decline to address this issue because it was not the basis of the trial court’s order granting the defendant’s right to suppress.”

Here is another quote from the Supreme Court opinion, not mentioned in the Pilot News story today:
As to the scope of application of Chapter 5, which governs offenses related to driving while intoxicated, we need not speculate about the intent of the legislature. The General Assembly has been emphatic, explicit, and unequivocal: "It is not a defense in an action under [Chapter 5] that the accused person was operating a vehicle in a place other than on a highway." Ind. Code § 9-30-5-9.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 11, 2009 10:09 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions