Assigned on Briefs April 14, 2015.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Henderson County Nos. 13119-1, 13120-1 Roy B. Morgan, Judge.
Benjamin S. Dempsey, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Anthen Lee Parker.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Angela Scott, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Norma McGee Ogle, J., joined.
JAMES CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE.
The defendant pleaded guilty in case number 13119-1 to one count of driving after having been declared a motor vehicle habitual offender ("MVHO") and in case number 13120-1 to one count of driving after having been declared an MVHO, one count of second offense driving under the influence, one count of felony evading arrest, one count of reckless driving, one count of violating the registration law, one count of violating the financial responsibility law, and one count of failing to maintain his lane of travel. Pursuant to his plea agreement with the State, the defendant received a total effective Range III sentence of 10 years' incarceration. In addition, the defendant reserved with the consent of the State and the trial court the following certified question of law pursuant to Rule 37(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure:
Do the Rules of Civil Procedure apply to HMVO proceedings and judgments such that the judgment of 10/11-1995 in this case has expired pursuant to Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure 69.04 and TCA 28-3-110(2)?
The trial court explicitly stated the question in the judgments and stated that the question was dispositive of the case against the defendant. See Tenn. R. Crim. P. 37(b)(2)(A).
Initially, we note that the question presented is not, in fact, dispositive of the entirety of case number 13120-1. The defendant was convicted of six offenses in addition to the conviction of driving after having been declared an MVHO that would not be impacted by any ruling on the certified question. That question is dispositive only to the convictions of driving after having been declared an MVHO in case numbers 13119-1 and 13120-1.
Prior to entering his guilty pleas, the defendant moved the trial court to dismiss the indictments charging him with driving after having been declared an MVHO on grounds that Code section 28-3-110(2) and Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 69.04 barred enforcement of the 1995 judgment declaring him an MVHO because that judgment was more than 10 years old. The trial court denied his motion, finding that "the clear mandate of the act is that the suspension of driving privileges will remain in effect until [a petition to restore driving privileges] is filed and the Court acts favorably thereon." The court concluded that the 1995 judgment had "not expired and [was] not beyond the statute of limitations."
In this appeal, the defendant acknowledges that on October 11, 1995, the Carroll County Circuit Court declared him an MVHO under the terms of the Motor Vehicle Habitual Offender Act ("MVHO Act"). He argues, however, that because the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure govern proceedings under the MVHO Act, Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 69.04 prohibits enforcement of the October 11, 1995 judgment declaring him an habitual offender because the judgment is more than 10 years old. He also argues that because MVHO actions are civil rather than criminal in nature, Code section 28-3-110 prohibits enforcement of the judgment by prosecution for driving after having been declared an MVHO because the MVHO judgment is more than 10 years old.
The defendant is correct that the initial proceedings to declare a person an MVHO "are civil in nature" and are, therefore, governed by the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. State v. Malady, 952 S.W.2d 440, 444 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1996); Bankston v. State, 815 S.W.2d 213, 216 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1991); Everhart v. State, 563 S.W.2d 795, 797 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1978). That the rules of civil procedure govern the process for declaring a person an MVHO does not, however, lead to a ...