Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs December 9, 2014
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Cocke County No. 4095 Rex H. Ogle, Judge
Thomas V. Testerman, Newport, Tennessee, for appellant, Christian Philip Van Camp.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General & Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Senior Counsel; James Dunn, District Attorney General; and Tonya Thornton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Alan E. Glenn, J., joined.
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
In the early morning hours of September 2, 2012, Ed Williams, a resident of Newport, Tennessee, was delivering newspapers. As he turned onto Morristown Highway, he noticed a set of headlights coming toward him from the opposite direction. He realized that the lights belonged to a vehicle traveling in the wrong lane of traffic. Mr. Williams pulled off the highway into the parking lot of a nearby shopping center in order to avoid a head-on collision. He called 911 and reported that a maroon-red, "bigger than average size" vehicle was traveling in the wrong lane. The vehicle made a left turn toward Newport and continued in the wrong lane. He gave his name to the 911 dispatcher and explained why he was out on the roads around 3:00 in the morning.
Around the same time, Newport Police Officer Joshua Holt was traveling on Cosby Highway. As he was about to turn onto West Broadway, he received a report from the dispatcher to be on the lookout ("BOLO") for a large, deep red or maroon, older model car traveling in the wrong lane on West Broadway. Less than two minutes after receiving the call, Officer Holt saw Defendant's vehicle, which matched the description in the BOLO dispatch. The vehicle was traveling eastbound and was straddling the line between the two eastbound lanes "left of center." Officer Holt, who was traveling westbound at that point, made a U-turn to follow the vehicle. As he did so, he observed in his rearview mirror Defendant's car "swerve" to the right and "almost hit the curb." Officer Holt followed Defendant as he turned onto Cosby Highway. Officer Holt then activated his blue lights and pulled over Defendant's vehicle in the parking lot of a post office.
After stopping the vehicle, Officer Holt detected a strong odor of alcohol as he spoke to Defendant. Defendant told Officer Holt that he was going to Bybee, which is in the opposite direction of the direction Defendant was traveling. Upon exiting the vehicle, Defendant appeared unsteady on his feet. After unsuccessfully performing several field sobriety tests, Defendant was placed under arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence ("DUI"). Defendant consented to a breathalyzer test, which revealed a blood alcohol concentration of .14.
Defendant was indicted by a Cocke County Grand Jury of one count of driving under the influence, one count of driving while his blood alcohol was in excess of the legal limit ("DUI per se"), and one count of failing to maintain his proper lane of traffic. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the warrantless seizure of his vehicle. Both Mr. Williams and Officer Holt testified at the suppression hearing, and a video from Officer Holt's patrol vehicle was entered into evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found "that probable cause more than existed to justify the officer's stop, " and denied Defendant's motion.
Defendant waived his right to a jury trial. A bench trial was conducted on March 27, 2014. Defendant renewed his motion to suppress, which the trial court denied. Mr. Williams and Officer Holt testified consistently with their testimony at the suppression hearing, and the video of the stop was played in its entirety. Defendant did not testify or present any witnesses. Defendant made a motion for judgment of acquittal, which the trial court overruled. The trial court found Defendant guilty on all charges and merged the two DUI convictions. Defendant was sentenced to a total effective sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended but 48 hours, with the balance to be served on supervised probation.
Defendant filed a motion for a new trial on March 31, 2014. Defendant prematurely filed his notice of appeal on April 3, 2014, while his motion for new trial was still pending. The trial court entered an order denying the ...