ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT:
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE:
JUNE E. BULES
Attorney General of Indiana
MICHAEL GENE WORDEN
Deputy Attorney General
COURT OF APPEALS OF INDIANA
BOBBIE J. ROWE,
STATE OF INDIANA,
APPEAL FROM THE STARKE CIRCUIT COURT
The Honorable Kim Hall, Judge
Cause No. 75C01-0504-FB-10
May 31, 2007
OPINION - FOR PUBLICATION
STATEMENT OF THE CASE
Bobbie Rowe appeals her convictions for two counts of Operating a Vehicle with
a Controlled Substance or its Metabolite in a Person’s Blood Causing Death of Another
Person, as Class B felonies, and Obstruction of Justice, as a Class D felony, following a
jury trial. Rowe presents the following issues for our review:
Whether the omission in the information of an element of two of the
charged offenses constitutes fundamental error.
Whether Indiana Code Section 9-30-5-5(b)(2) violates Article I,
Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution.
Whether the State presented sufficient evidence to support her two
Class B felony convictions.
Whether her sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the
offenses and her character.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On January 23, 2005, Rowe drove an ATV towing a sled in which three children
were riding: Rowe’s daughter, Charity Minix, and two minor girls, C.C. and J.C. Rowe
initially drove the children around her backyard, but then she drove out onto an adjacent
roadway to travel to a friend’s house. Rowe knew it was illegal to operate an ATV on the
roadway. It was dark outside, so Rowe illuminated the headlight on the ATV.
When Rowe saw an approaching vehicle, she slowed the ATV and came to a stop
near the edge of the roadway. That action caused the sled to move into the path of the
approaching vehicle, which was being operated by Lester Hensley. Hensley did not see
the sled in time to avoid striking it. As a result of the collision, C.C. and J.C. died
instantly, and Charity was treated for serious bodily injuries.
Police officers and emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene, and Starke
County Deputy Sheriff Brett Hansen told Rowe that she could ride in the ambulance to
the hospital with her daughter. Deputy Hansen also told Rowe that she would have to
submit to blood and urine tests at the hospital, and Rowe agreed. But Rowe did not ride
in the ambulance to the hospital. Instead, she drove the ATV from the accident scene to
her house and telephoned her sister, Patricia Minix, to ask her to give her a urine sample.
Rowe did not want to give her own urine sample because she had smoked marijuana
within a “couple” of days of the accident. Transcript at 215. Minix agreed, and Rowe
got Minix’s urine sample before driving herself to the hospital.
Rowe also telephoned her friend Christina Roush, a laboratory technician at Starke
Memorial Hospital who was not working that evening. Roush met Rowe at the hospital
and arranged to take Rowe’s urine and blood samples. Rowe had returned Minix’s urine
sample to her, and Minix had poured that sample down a bathroom sink. Ultimately,
however, Roush collected a new urine sample from Minix to submit as Rowe’s urine, but
Rowe submitted her own blood for the blood test. The results of the blood test showed
the presence of carboxy-THC, a metabolite of marijuana, in Rowe’s blood.
significance of that result is that Rowe had ingested or was exposed to marijuana at some
time during the previous week.
The State charged Rowe with two counts of operating a vehicle with a controlled
substance or its metabolite in a person’s blood causing death of another person, as Class
B felonies; two counts of reckless homicide, as Class C felonies; and obstruction of
justice, as a Class D felony. A jury found Rowe guilty as charged. The trial court
entered judgment on the first two counts and the obstruction of justice count and
sentenced Rowe to a total term of twenty-one and one-half years, with six years
suspended to probation. This appeal ensued.
DISCUSSION AND DECISION
Issue One: Fundamental Error
Rowe first contends that the State “failed to allege[,] charge[, and prove] an
essential element of the offense of being at least twenty-one years of age and operating a
vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in a person’s blood causing death of
another person [as a Class B felony].” Brief of Appellant at 5-6. Indiana Code Section
9-30-5-5(b) provides in relevant part:
A person at least twenty-one (21) years of age who causes the death of
another person when operating a motor vehicle:
(2) with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II of IC 35-48-2 or its
metabolite in the person’s blood;
commits a Class B felony.
There is no minimum age requirement for the Class C felony version of the offense.
Here, the charging information states in relevant part as follows:
On or about the 23rd day of January, 2005, on County Road 250 W. in
Starke County, State of Indiana, Bobbie J. Rowe did operate a motor
vehicle with a Schedule I controlled substance or its metabolite in her
blood, to-wit: Carboxy Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and in so doing
caused the death of another person, to-wit: [C.C.].
The second charge, regarding the death of J.C., included the same language. Thus, Rowe
is correct that the information did not include the age element of the offenses.
But Rowe did not raise these errors to the trial court, and they are waived. In an
effort to avoid waiver, Rowe contends that the omissions constitute fundamental error.
The fundamental error doctrine is extremely narrow. Sandifur v. State, 815 N.E.2d 1042,
1046 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), trans. denied. To qualify as fundamental error, an error must
be so prejudicial to the rights of the defendant as to make a fair trial impossible. Id.
Further, the error must constitute a blatant violation of basic principles, the harm, or
potential for harm must be substantial, and the resulting error must deny the defendant
fundamental due process. Id.
The purpose of an information is to apprise the accused of the nature of the
accusation made so that preparations for mounting a defense can be made. Wine v. State,
637 N.E.2d 1369, 1375 (Ind. Ct. App. 1994), trans. denied. Here, Rowe cannot show that
she was unduly prejudiced by the omission of the age requirement from the charging
information. Rowe does not assert, for example, how her trial strategy might have been
different if the age requirement had been included in the information. See, e.g., State v.
Noil, 807 So.2d 295, 313 (La. App. 5 Cir. 2001) (observing “no defense to the charge
was available to defendant—a 27-year-old man—on the basis of his age that might have
been prejudiced by the omission [in the information].”). And Rowe certainly does not
deny that she was over the required age at the time of the offenses.
Further, Jury Instruction No. 8 included the following:
On the date in question, there were statutes in the State of Indiana reading
A person who operates a vehicle with a controlled substance or metabolite
listed in Schedule I of I.C. 35-48-2 or its metabolite in the person’s blood
and at the time of the operation of the vehicle Defendant was twenty-one
(21) or more years of age and Defendant’s operation of the vehicle caused
the death of [C.C.].
Appellant’s App. at 23 (emphasis added). Thus, the jury was informed of the age
requirement for the Class B felony offense.
Finally, Rowe maintains that there was no evidence presented at trial showing her
age. But one exhibit introduced at trial, a medical record, lists her birth date as December
5, 1962. And Rowe’s daughter, Charity, testified that she was nineteen years old at the
time of the offenses. By implication, then, Rowe was at least more than twenty-one years
old at that time, having given birth to Charity nineteen years earlier. Finally, the jury got
to observe Rowe when she testified at trial and could reasonably infer that Rowe was
over the age of twenty-one. Under these circumstances, we hold that Rowe’s age was
supported by sufficient evidence. See Noil, 807 So.2d at 313 (noting jury observation
and circumstantial evidence can be used to infer the age of a defendant when no direct
evidence of defendant’s age is presented).
In sum, Rowe has not demonstrated that she was denied a fair trial by the omission
of the age requirement from the information. Had she raised the issue to the trial court,
the matter could have been easily resolved in time for trial. Rowe has not shown
Issue Two: Indiana Constitution
Rowe next contends that Indiana Code Section 9-30-5-5(b)(2) violates Article I,
Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution. In particular, she maintains that “the increased
punishment for persons operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in
their blood who are at least twenty-one years old is not reasonably related to any inherent
characteristics which distinguish them from [a] person under twenty-one[.]” Brief of
Appellant at 15. We cannot agree.
Initially, the State points out that Rowe asserts this issue for the first time on
appeal. Generally, a challenge to the constitutionality of a criminal statute must be raised
by a motion to dismiss prior to trial, and the failure to do so waives the issue on appeal.
Adams v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1169, 1172 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004). Here, Rowe did not file a
motion to dismiss on this issue, and she did not object to the constitutionality of the
statute at trial. As such, the issue is waived. See id.
Waiver notwithstanding, we address the merits of Rowe’s claim.
Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution states: “[t]he General Assembly shall not grant to
any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms,
shall not equally belong to all citizens.” In Collins v. Day, 644 N.E.2d 72, 80 (Ind.
1994), our supreme court held that:
Article I, Section 23 of the Indiana Constitution imposes two requirements
upon statutes that grant unequal privileges or immunities to differing
classes of persons. First, the disparate treatment accorded to the legislation
must be reasonably related to inherent characteristics which distinguish the
unequally treated classes. Second, the preferential treatment must be
uniformly applicable and equally available to all persons similarly situated.
Finally in determining whether a statute complies with or violates Section
23, courts must exercise substantial deference to legislative discretion.
In considering such a constitutional challenge to a statute, we presume that the
statute is valid, and we place the burden upon the challenging party to clearly overcome
the presumption by a contrary showing. Kelver v. State, 808 N.E.2d 154, 156-57 (Ind.
Ct. App. 2004).
The party challenging the statute based on a purported improper
classification must negate every reasonable basis for the classification.
reasonable doubts must be resolved in favor of a statute’s constitutionality. Id.
Here, the State points out that:
[a] rational distinction for treating [persons over twenty-one] differently
than those under twenty-one years of age is the legislative determination
that those who are twenty-one or older are more mature than those under
twenty-one and should therefore be more accountable for their actions,
particularly when it involves drinking or the use of drugs and driving. It is
not unlike the legislative determination that people in Indiana must be
twenty-one or older in order to legally consume alcoholic beverages.
Brief of Appellee at 12. Rowe acknowledges that position, but rejects it, stating:
First, a younger person under twenty-one violating [Indiana Code Section]
9-30-5-5(a)(1) or (3)[, which results in a Class C felony unless the
defendant has a prior conviction for operating while intoxicated within the
past five years,] has already committed at least one other offense, to-wit:
minor consuming. The statute actually benefits persons committing
multiple offenses. Albeit, I.C. 9-30-5-5(b)(1) does contain the requirement
of a higher alcohol concentration than I.C. 9-30-5-5(a)(1), which may
justify the enhanced penalty more logically than the age of the offender.
There is no difference between the requirements of I.C. 9-30-5-5(a)(2) and
I.C. 9-30-5-5(b)(2) except the offender’s age. This cannot withstand the
constitutional analysis. A person eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years old
understands the consequences of driving a vehicle after consuming too
much alcohol or illegal drugs just as well as a person twenty-one or older.
Brief of Appellant at 15.
We are unpersuaded by Rowe’s argument and hold that she has not rebutted the
presumption of constitutionality. We agree with the State that a person over twenty-one
years of age should be held to a higher standard when it comes to operating a motor
vehicle under the circumstances contemplated under the statute.
contention on this issue.
We reject Rowe’s
Issue Three: Sufficiency of the Evidence
Rowe also contends that the evidence is insufficient to support her two convictions
for operating a vehicle with a controlled substance or its metabolite in a person’s blood
causing death of another person. In particular, she asserts that her “operation of the ATV
with Carboxy-THC in her blood” did not cause the deaths of C.C. and J.C. Brief of
Appellant at 17. We cannot agree.
In support of her contention, Rowe directs us to Abney v. State, 766 N.E.2d 1175,
1177 (Ind. 2002), where our supreme court held that a conviction for operating while
intoxicated causing death requires proof that the defendant’s operation of a motor vehicle
while intoxicated was a “substantial cause” of the resulting death, not a mere
“contributing” cause. The court in Abney restated the well-settled rule established in
Micinski v. State, 487 N.E.2d 150, 154 (Ind. 1986), that the State must prove that the
defendant’s conduct was a proximate cause of the victim’s injury or death. Id. at 1178.
But “conduct,” in the context of Micinski and Abney, means the driver’s act of operating
the vehicle, not the particular manner in which the driver operates the vehicle. Spaulding
v. State, 815 N.E.2d 1039, 1042 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004).
Rowe’s entire argument on this issue focuses on her assertion that “[t]his accident
would have occurred whether she had the metabolite in her blood or not.” Brief of
Appellant at 16. But Rowe misses the point. As Micinski makes clear, the test is not
whether the presence of the metabolite in Rowe’s blood caused the accident, but whether
she had the metabolite in her blood when she operated the ATV and caused the girls’
deaths. 487 N.E.2d at 154. The State presented evidence that Rowe drove the ATV, with
the girls on a sled in tow, onto a roadway, after dark. When Rowe stopped the ATV, the
sled moved into the path of the oncoming vehicle. A blood test showed the presence of a
marijuana metabolite in Rowe’s blood. The evidence is sufficient to support Rowe’s
Class B felony convictions.
Issue Four: Sentence
Finally, Rowe contends that her sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of
the offenses and her character. 1 The determination of the appropriate sentence rests
within the discretion of the trial court, and we will not reverse the trial court’s
determination absent a showing of manifest abuse of that discretion. Bacher v. State, 722
N.E.2d 799, 801 (Ind. 2000). The trial court’s wide discretion extends to determining
whether to increase the presumptive sentence, to impose consecutive sentences on
multiple convictions, or both. Singer v. State, 674 N.E.2d 11, 13 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996). If
the sentence imposed is authorized by statute, we will not revise or set aside the sentence
unless it is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the
offender. Ind. Appellate Rule 7(B); McCann v. State, 749 N.E.2d 1116, 1121 (Ind.
The presumptive sentence for a Class B felony is ten years, 2 and the trial court is
permitted to add up to ten years for aggravating circumstances. See Ind. Code § 35-50-25 (2004). The presumptive sentence for a Class D felony is one and one-half years, and
the trial court is permitted to add up to one and one-half years for aggravating
Rowe characterizes this issue as a challenge under Indiana Appellate Rule 7(B). But her
argument consists entirely of a challenge to the trial court’s weighing of aggravators and mitigators.
Because the offenses occurred in January 2005, the presumptive sentencing scheme applies.
circumstances. See Ind. Code § 35-50-2-7 (2004). Here, the trial court identified four
aggravators and three mitigators. The trial court imposed the presumptive sentence on
each count and ordered that those sentences run consecutively, for a total of twenty-one
and one-half years, with six years suspended.
The trial court found the following aggravators: both victims of the two offenses
were less than twelve (12) years of age; Rowe was in a position having the care, custody
or control of the young victims; Rowe’s sworn testimony regarding the circumstances of
the accident and the collection of the urine sample at the hospital was not credible; and
Rowe failed to appreciate the gravity of her reckless conduct and depreciated the deaths
of the children and serious injury to her own daughter while plotting to cover her own
The trial court found the following mitigators:
Rowe did not
contemplate that she would cause serious harm to anyone; she has led a law-abiding life
prior to the commission of the crimes; and she was remorseful.
On appeal, Rowe first contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it did
not find certain factors to be mitigating. It is well settled that the finding of mitigating
circumstances is within the discretion of the trial court. Hackett v. State, 716 N.E.2d
1273, 1277 (Ind. 1999). The trial court is not obligated to explain why it did not find a
factor to be significantly mitigating. Chambliss v. State, 746 N.E.2d 73, 78 (Ind. 2001).
An allegation that the trial court failed to identify or find a mitigating factor requires the
defendant to establish that the mitigating evidence is both significant and clearly
supported by the record. Matshazi v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1232, 1239 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004),
Rowe asserts that the trial court should have found the unlikelihood that she would
commit another offense of this nature to be mitigating. At sentencing, the trial court
considered that proffered mitigator and rejected it, stating: “It was argued that I should
find mitigating the crime was a result of circumstances unlikely to recur. I don’t know
that. So I can’t say that. I suspect that it would never recur. But there’s no proof that
that would never recur.” Sentencing Transcript at 61-62. We cannot say that the trial
court abused its discretion in making that determination.
Rowe also maintains that the trial court should have found mitigating that she is
“likely to respond affirmatively to probation or short-term imprisonment and that her
character and attitude indicate that she is unlikely to commit another crime.” Brief of
Appellant at 19. But, again, the trial court considered that proffered mitigator and
rejected it. And Rowe has not demonstrated an abuse of discretion.
Rowe challenges only one of the trial court’s four listed aggravators. 3
contends that “it was an error for the trial court to use as an aggravating circumstance that
Rowe failed to appreciate the gravity of her conduct and depreciated [the] seriousness of
the deaths of the children.” Brief of Appellant at 20. But she does not support that
contention with citation to authority. 4 Further, our review of the sentencing transcript
shows that the aggravator is valid. The trial court stated, in full:
Also, the Court finds aggravating the fact that the defendant failed to
appreciate the gravity of her reckless conduct and depreciated the deaths of
In a single sentence, Rowe also states that the third listed aggravator is invalid. But she does
not support that assertion with cogent argument or citation to authority, so the issue is waived.
Rowe appears to conflate that listed aggravator with a common aggravator used by trial courts,
namely, that a reduced sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the crime. But as the sentencing
transcript shows, that is not the aggravator that the trial court was considering.
the two children [who] were in your care, and the life-threatening injuries to
your daughter, while you plotted and schemed to cover up your own
criminal activity. As the prosecutor mentioned, of everything that I heard,
that was perhaps one of the most disturbing is [sic] that while this had
happened and out at the scene, the two children were deceased on the
roadway, your daughter had been rushed away in an ambulance. You asked
the officer if you could ride in the back of the ambulance. He said yes.
And subsequently you were told that you couldn’t by the EMT’s or
whomever. But then, instead of rushing directly to the hospital to be with
your daughter not knowing what her outcome was, which eventually she
was airlifted to Fort Wayne. You go to your sister’s and talk about, and
plan, and do, obtain her urine to take to the hospital, obviously more
concerned about your own self at that point than your own daughter’s wellbeing at the time that she suffered serious injuries, serious enough to have
her airlifted to Fort Wayne. You were more concerned about whether or
not anything was going to show up in your urine. I find that to be an
Sentencing Transcript at 60-61.
This aggravator clearly reflects the nature and
circumstances of the crime and is a proper aggravator. See, e.g., Haas v. State, 849
N.E.2d 550, 555 (Ind. 2006) (holding nature and circumstances of crime aggravator
appropriate where trial court found nature of crime heinous).
Rowe has not persuaded us that the nature of the offenses and her character
warrant a lesser sentence. Her contention that the mitigators outweigh the aggravators is
unavailing. And we agree with the trial court that Rowe’s actions in the aftermath of the
collision reflect very poorly on her character. Finally, the nature of the offenses reflects
Rowe’s conscious decision to drive an ATV illegally on a roadway, with gross
endangerment to three young lives. We cannot say that Rowe’s sentence is inappropriate
in light of the nature of the offenses and the character of the offender.
RILEY, J., and BARNES, J., concur.