Suspended and still driving - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

13 Investigates

Suspended and still driving

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John Smith says he's been stopped many times on his moped. John Smith says he's been stopped many times on his moped.
INDIANAPOLIS -

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.

Just ask John Smith, who readily admits he's been stopped on his moped.

"Yeah, about ten times. I've been stopped on it a lot."

13 Investigates asked, "What do police tell you when they stop you?"

"I tell them that my license is suspended. They read the VIN numbers. As long as it don't come back stolen, they're like, you're fine. As long as it ain't over 50cc and above," Smith said, explaining how police allow him to continue driving the moped.

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 It's unclear and outdated.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. The bill died during the final days of the session in conference committee. That means Indiana law still remains very unclear about what suspended drivers can or cannot put on the road.

"In most every instance the bikes are faster than the law allows and the police are not enforcing it," added Tockey.

The proposed changes did include a change in speeds, allowing the mopeds to travel as fast as 30 mph.

It would have also required insurance and all mopeds to be registered and plated through the BMV, just like motorcycles.

And the term "motorized bicycle" would have been changed to moped, reducing some of the confusion.

State Supreme Court arguments begin at 9:30 am.

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