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While the State is ultimately responsible for proving every element beyond a reasonable doubt, the State does not bear the burden of negating all affirmative defenses that justify or excuse conduct which would otherwise be criminal. Thus, there is a difference between affirmative defenses that establish separate and distinct facts in mitigation of culpability and affirmative defenses that negate an element of the crime. The difference is that it is only unconstitutional to place the burden of persuasion for an affirmative defense on the defendant when proving the defense becomes tantamount to requiring the defendant to negate an element of the crime.
Defendant Kenneth J. Geljack, Jr. was adjudged as a habitual traffic offender in December 1992 and had his driving privileges suspended for ten years beginning January 1993. Despite this, however, defendant drove his car to a brake shop instead of having it towed by a wrecker. Defendant was arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while his privileges were suspended. After his trial and conviction, defendant brought the present appeal, arguing that an emergency existed within the meaning of IC 9-30-10-18 (1993), thereby excusing driving while suspended. The trial court instructed the jury on the emergency defense by quoting IC 9-30-10-18, which, among others, provided that it was the defendant who bore the burden of proof to establish the defense of emergency. Defendant claimed that Ind. Code § 9-30-10-18 (1993) was unconstitutional because it imposed upon the accused the burden of proof when establishing his affirmative defense of an emergency.
Did IC 9-30-10-18 unconstitutionally impose upon the defendant the burden of establishing the affirmative defense of an emergency?
The court rejected the defendant’s claim and affirmed defendant's conviction. The court found that the State had the burden of proving all elements of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The court further found that the raising of an affirmative defense did not relieve the State of its burden of proof. However, the court also found that it was only unconstitutional to place the burden of persuasion for an affirmative defense on the accused when proving the defense became tantamount to requiring the accused to negate an element of the crime. The court held that the existence of an emergency that threatened life or limb would not negate any of the elements of operating a motor vehicle while privileges were suspended. The court found that the emergency defense mitigated culpability, but did not negate an element of the crime. Accordingly, the court held that § 9-30-10-18 did not unconstitutionally impose upon defendant the burden of establishing the affirmative defense of an emergency.