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Friday, April 20, 2012

Ind. Decisions - "Is it a motor vehicle, or simply a motorized bike? For suspended drivers who get caught driving one, it could mean going to jail."

This morning at 9:30 the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of Michael J. Lock v. State of Indiana. In a rare "road trip" for this Court, the event will take place at Martin University, on the city's northside.

The headline above is a quote from Sandra Chapman's story last evening at WTHR 13. From the story:


13 Investigates first uncovered the debate over habitual traffic offenders getting back on the road on mopeds. Now the Indiana Supreme Court is hearing arguments about the state's loophole on Friday.

It's a case creating confusion for both police and suspended drivers. One of the lowest powered two-wheelers on the road is heading to Indiana's highest court.

The debate: Is it a motor vehicle, or simply a motorized bike? For suspended drivers who get caught driving one, it could mean going to jail.

"It's 49cc, less than 2 horsepower, maximum speed of 25 mph on a level ground, and that's it. If you're doing 26 miles per hour, you're busted," said Mike Tockey, a well known westside moped dealer who has pushed for tougher laws.

Tockey believes 26 mph is the cut-off speed for enforcement. But not so fast. Police agencies across the state often interpret the law differently. * * *

That's what Michael Lock thought too. Friday his case will be argued before the Indiana Supreme Court.

In 2009, he was arrested and convicted of driving while suspended after a State Trooper caught him and his 49cc Yamaha Zuma topping 43 mph on U.S. Highway 24.

But last year, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned his conviction.

Judge Melissa May writes:

"Lock argues the State did not prove he operated a motor vehicle, because his Zuma is a motorized bicycle, which...is exempt...We agree the State did not prove the Zuma was a motor vehicle, however, neither does the record before us permit us to hold the Zuma is a motorized bicycle."

The problem is Indiana's law. It's unclear and outdated.

Indiana lawmakers had a chance to clarify the law this past session, but didn't get it done.

Maureen Hayden of CNHI had this story yesterday in the New Albany News & Tribune. Some quotes:
State law prohibits motorists with suspended driving privileges from getting back on the road, but an Indiana man is arguing that the mo-ped he rode down a state highway at 42 mph isn’t covered by the law.

His argument, disputed by police and prosecutors, is the basis for a case that the Indiana Supreme Court is scheduled to take up Friday.

The court’s decision either way is likely to affect the thousands of Hoosiers who drive mo-peds, scooters and other motor bikes that fall into a murky area of the law. And it will likely trigger some kind of legislative action to ramp up regulations on a largely unregulated form of transportation. * * *

Under current Indiana law, people who ride mo-peds and scooters don’t need a driver’s license to do so. But the law is only supposed to apply to small-engine, low horse-power vehicles with design speeds no greater than 25 mph.

Lock’s mo-ped fit the first two criteria, but he was clocked driving 42 mph. As police and prosecutors argue: What Lock was riding can’t possibly be exempt from the law. * * *

Among those who plan to attend is state Rep. Milo Smith, a Republican from Columbus who’s been pushing his legislative colleagues for the past four years to make mo-peds and scooters subject to many of the same rules as cars and motorcycles. Currently, the law doesn’t require those vehicles to carry license plates, be registered with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, or be operated by a licensed and insured driver.

He said Indiana law has failed to keep up with the rise in the number of mo-peds and scooters on Indiana roads.

“If gas climbs to $5 a gallon, we’ll see a lot more of them,” Smith said.

ILB: Unfortunately, there will be no videocast of the argument today.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 20, 2012 08:28 AM
Posted to Indiana Decisions