Archive for 2013

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VZP Receives First-Tier Rankings in 2014 U.S. News and World Report “Best Law Firms” Survey

U.S. News and World Report has named Voyles Zahn & Paul a 2014 Tier 1 law firm for white-collar and non-white-collar criminal defense in the Indianapolis metropolitan region.

The U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” rankings are based on a rigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process. To be eligible for a ranking, a law firm must have at least one lawyer listed in the 19th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America list for that particular location and specialty.

Click here for more information.

Tyler Helmond in the IN Lawyer: Interrogatories with Joel Schumm

Tyler Helmond’s column “Interrogatories” was published in the September 25, 2013, issue of The Indiana Lawyer. The column featured questions and answers with Joel M. Schumm, a clinical professor of law at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. The column can be accessed here.

Case Update: Habitual Traffic Violator Offenses

On August 28, 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court made a significant decision for those who are charged with driving while an habitual traffic violator (“HTV”).

For decades, Indiana courts have considered driving while a HTV to be a status offense.  As the Indiana Supreme Court stated in State v. Starks, 816 N.E.2d 32 (Ind. 2004), the act of driving while knowing that your license is suspended is the crime.  The underlying crimes don’t matter.  Even if one of the underlying offenses that led to that status was later vacated, courts would not void the later conviction for driving while a HTV.  This position was backed by the Court’s decision in White v. State, 497 N.E.2d 893 (Ind. 1986), which held that a harmless procedural error was not enough to invalidate a guilty plea.

Yesterday’s decision in State v. Oney, 49S05-1212-CR-00668 (opinion issued 8/28/2013), opened the door for having some HTV convictions vacated, despite the “status offense” rationale of Starks and like cases.  In Oney, the defendant was convicted of OWI in 1986, 1989, and 1993.  As a result of these three convictions, he was determined to be a HTV, and his driver’s license was suspended for 10 years.  He was arrested for OWI again in 1999, and pled guilty to driving while a HTV, which led to a lifetime license suspension.

Oney sought to have his 1989 conviction vacated because the judge coerced him into pleading guilty while he still maintained his innocence.  The trial court granted his post-conviction relief petition.  Without this conviction, he would not have been a HTV in 1999.  Oney next sought to vacate his conviction for driving while a HTV based upon his successful PCR on one of the underlying offenses.  The trial court in that case granted the petition.  The Court of Appeals then reversed the trial court’s decision, upholding the rule of Starks.

The Indiana Supreme Court in its recent decision distinguished Oney’s case from Starks.  The Court decided that the reason for Oney’s 1989 conviction being vacated was not a mere procedural technicality, but rather a substantive issue related to the defendant’s guilt or innocence of the actual offense.  Specifically, Oney entered a guilty plea while maintaining his innocence.  Without a sufficient factual basis for the guilty plea, the Court decided that the plea could not be accepted and any subsequent convictions for driving while a HTV that depended on that first conviction were also voidable.

The circumstances of Oney were unusual, but the Indiana Supreme Court has created a new argument for avoiding a driving while a HTV conviction and the lifetime license suspension that goes with it, provided, where possible, the practitioner structures his PCR arguments in terms of substantive, rather than procedural, error.

James Voyles Remembers Joe Russell in the IN Lawyer

The Indiana Lawyer published “Memories of Joe Russell,” a tribute written by James Voyles, in its August 14, 2013, issue. The article celebrates the life of the former Krieg Devault partner and past president of the Indianapolis Bar Association.

The full text of the article can be accessed here.


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The views expressed in the blog are not necessarily those of the firm and are not intended to be used as legal advice.