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Friday, September 18, 2009

Ind. Law - "What is a habitual offender in Indiana?"

That is the headline to this Sept. 17th story by Dave Stephens in the South Bend Tribune. Some quotes:

At least five times since 1986, Leroy Hoover has been declared at fault in a car accident.

Yet he is not even close to being considered a habitual traffic offender who could have his driving license revoked for an extended period of time.

State records indicate that Hoover's license has been suspended only three times - in 1986, after leaving the scene of an accident, and in 1988 and 2000 for driving without insurance.

Hoover, 56, has been charged with a Class C misdemeanor for his role in the May accident that killed 4-year-old Shayla Aston and 6-year-old Shianna Aston in Mishawaka. A grand jury indicted Hoover with having metabolized marijuana in his system during the crash, and he is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 1.

Hoover faces a maximum penalty for a Class C misdemeanor of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine if he is convicted. In Indiana, the presence of marijuana metabolite is classified as "driving under the influence," making it likely that Hoover, if found guilty, could have his driving privileges suspended for 90 days.

Dennis Rosebrough, spokesman for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said some convictions, like driving under the influence or without insurance, come with an automatic license suspension. But the length and severity of those suspensions can be altered by a judge, who may wish to grant privileges such as allowing a person to drive to work.

Rosebrough said a judge can also order a license to be suspended or revoked as part of a sentencing, even if state law doesn't specifically recommend it.

But for a driver to have his license revoked for an extended period of time, he has to be considered a habitual offender. * * *

To qualify as a habitual traffic offender, a driver must be convicted of two major offenses - such as reckless homicide, manslaughter or operating while intoxicated - that resulted in death or injury. Also, those convictions have to have happened in the last 10 years.

Habitual traffic offenders are also defined as people who have been convicted of three minor offenses in the past 10 years. Those offenses include: drunk driving, driving while suspended, driving without a license, criminal recklessness, drag racing and leaving the scene.

Hoover's record shows two convictions for leaving the scene of an accident, but the charges were issued 10 years apart. He's also been faulted for causing serious injury to children on two separate occasions - but the first time resulted in no charges and the second in a misdemeanor.

In other words, Hoover's accidents occurred too far apart, and with no clear criminal actions, for the state to consider him a habitual problem.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 18, 2009 10:19 AM
Posted to Indiana Law