State of Indiana and Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Appellants (Respondents below)
Daniel Reinhart Appellee (Petitioner below)
Argued: June 19, 2018
from the Adams Superior Court No. 01D01-1703-MI-12 The
Honorable Patrick R. Miller, Judge
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals No.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Aaron T. Craft Andrea Rahman Deputy Attorneys
General Indianapolis, Indiana
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Brian J. Johnson Danville, Indiana
proper venue for seeking specialized driving privileges
depends on whether the petitioner's underlying suspension
was court ordered or whether it was imposed administratively
by the BMV. The latter suspension type requires the
petitioner to seek relief in his or her county of residence;
the former requires the petitioner to file in each court that
ordered a suspension.
where is the proper venue for seeking relief when that person
"forfeits" driving privileges for life following a
felony conviction for driving while suspended? Because we
consider this lifetime forfeiture an administrative
suspension, we hold the proper venue is the trial court in a
person's county of residence. We thus affirm the trial
court's order granting Reinhart's petition for
specialized driving privileges.
and Procedural History
Reinhart, a resident of Adams County, is subject to three
separate driver's license suspensions. The BMV imposed
two of these suspensions, in 2012 and 2015, for habitual
traffic violations in Adams County. The third suspension is a
lifetime forfeiture resulting from a 2015 felony conviction
in Noble County for driving while suspended as a habitual
traffic violator. See Ind. Code § 9-30-10-16
(2014) (Section 16).
2017, Reinhart petitioned the Adams Superior Court for
specialized driving privileges (SDP), seeking relief from all
three suspensions under Indiana Code section 9-30-16-4
(Section 4). Section 4 requires drivers suspended by
administrative action of the BMV to petition
the court of his or her county of residence. I.C. §
9-30-16-4(d)(1) (2016). But for
court-ordered license suspensions, Indiana
Code section 9-30-16-3 (Section 3) requires the suspended
driver to petition "each court that has ordered or
imposed a suspension of the individual's driving
privileges." I.C. § 9-30-16-3(b) (2016) (we refer
to Sections 3 and 4 collectively as the SDP Statute).
Adams Superior Court granted Reinhart's SDP petition,
despite the State's questioning of its jurisdiction over
the "sentence" imposed by the Noble Superior Court.
Tr., p.12. The SDP order stayed all three suspensions for two
years, allowing Reinhart to drive to and from work, to visit
his children, and to other limited locations (for example, to
buy groceries or attend medical appointments) at specified
times. The State moved to correct error, arguing that the
Adams Superior Court lacked jurisdiction to stay or modify
the lifetime forfeiture imposed by the Noble Superior Court.
The Adams Superior Court disagreed, characterizing the
lifetime forfeiture as an administrative suspension over
which it properly exercised jurisdiction.
Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, instructing the trial
court to "vacate that portion of its order related to
Reinhart's Noble County suspension." State v.
Reinhart, 93 N.E.3d 801, 803 (Ind.Ct.App. 2018),
vacated. The panel held that the Noble Superior
Court ordered Reinhart's lifetime forfeiture, thus
requiring him to petition that court separately for SDP.
Id. "The fact that the Noble County court was
required to suspend his privileges for life does not
transform the suspension," the panel explained,
"which was part of a criminal sentencing order, into an
administrative suspension." Id. The panel also
held, contrary to precedent, that the "Adams County
trial court lacked jurisdiction to modify the Noble County
order" since "one court cannot modify or change the
record of another court of equal jurisdiction."
Id.; contra Prosecuting Attorney of Hendricks
Cty. v. Hammer, 92 N.E.3d 649, 652 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017)
(holding that a trial court "has subject matter
jurisdiction to adjudicate petitions for specialized driving
privileges" when the underlying suspension resulted upon
conviction in another trial court).
our General Assembly has since amended Section 16 to remove
the lifetime license forfeiture, see Pub. L. No.
188-2015, § 117, 2015 Ind. Acts 2248, 2318-19, we
granted transfer to resolve the conflict in our Court of
Appeals precedent and to provide a path forward for those in
typically review a trial court's ruling on a motion to
correct error for an abuse of discretion. Becker v.
State, 992 N.E.2d 697, 700 (Ind. 2013). But when that
motion rests on an issue of statutory construction, as it
does here, we review the trial court's ruling de novo.
Id. Questions of subject-matter jurisdiction fall
under the same standard of review. In re Adoption of
J.T.D., 21 N.E.3d 824, 827 (Ind. 2014).
1929, the Indiana General Assembly adopted the state's
first law governing the licensing of drivers. See
Act of Mar. 13, 1929, ch. 162, 1929 Ind. Acts 499. Among
other things, the measure set forth licensing application and
renewal procedures, established certain standards for driving
competency, and outlined the grounds for the suspension of
driving privileges. Id. §§ 5, 7-9, 14,
15-17, 1929 Ind. Acts at 501-04, 506, 507-09. The statute
also made it a misdemeanor offense for a person to drive with
a "suspended or revoked" license. Id.
§ 26, 1929 Ind. Acts at 511.
modern incarnation of this offense-codified in 1972 by the
Habitual Traffic Offender Act-is part of a larger legislative
scheme imposing increasingly serious sanctions on a person it
defines as a habitual traffic violator (or HTV). See
Pub. L. No. 81-1972, § 1, 1972 Ind. Acts 510, 510-17
(codified as amended at I.C. ch. 9-30-10). Within this
statutory framework (which we refer to as the HTV Law), a
habitual traffic violator faces the suspension of driving
privileges for up to ten years, depending on the nature and
number of the offenses committed over a ten-year period.
See I.C. §§ 9-30-10-4, -5. Those caught