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State v. Childress

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 28, 2016


          Assigned on Briefs October 19, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Maury County No. 23685 Robert Jones, Judge

         A Maury County jury convicted the Defendant, Darrell E. Childress, of Driving Under the Influence ("DUI"), fourth offense, and the trial court sentenced him to 150 days of incarceration followed by two years of supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it allowed the State to impeach him with his prior conviction for public intoxication; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed the State to ask the arresting officer about the results of a field sobriety task; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Robin E. Farber (at trial and on appeal) and Brandon E. White (on appeal), Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Darrell E. Childress.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Adam Davis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ., joined.



         I. Facts

         This case arises from a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by the Defendant on August 5, 2014, at around 1:00 a.m. As a result of this stop, a Maury County grand jury indicted the Defendant for DUI, fourth offense. At his trial on this charge, the parties presented the following evidence: Sergeant Jeremy Haywood, an officer with the Columbia Police Department, testified that he was traveling northbound when he saw a gold or tan minivan traveling westbound on Wayne Street. The van failed to stop at a stop sign and made a right-hand turn. The turn was "so wide" that the van came across both the northbound lanes of travel, into the oncoming travel lane, before "jerk[ing]" back over into the appropriate lane of travel. The vehicle then crossed from the inside lane into the outside lane and took a ramp that lead toward South Main Street. In court, Sergeant Haywood identified the Defendant as being the driver of the vehicle, and activated his emergency lights and stopped the vehicle.

         Sergeant Haywood testified that he contacted another officer who had video recording approached the Defendant and asked him for his identification. He noticed the odor of alcohol and that the Defendant spoke with slurred speech. He asked the Defendant to step out of the vehicle. The Defendant told the officer that he was headed home and that he lived only a short distance away. The Defendant indicated that he had consumed some alcohol but did not say how much. Sergeant Haywood said that, when the Defendant exited the vehicle, he was unsteady on his feet, the odor of alcohol emanated from him, his speech was slurred, and his clothing was in disarray.

         Sergeant Haywood testified that he gave the Defendant the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus ("HGN") test, and defense counsel objected. The trial court instructed the jury that the officer could testify that he gave the test but could not testify about the results of the test. Sergeant Haywood stated that the Defendant failed to follow instructions during the HGN test by not properly following his finger with his eyes and moving his head. The officer said that he instructed the Defendant on the one-leg stand test and the nine-step test. The Defendant informed him that he had hip and back problems. The Defendant repeatedly told the officer that he was almost home, and then he refused to complete the tasks. The officer said that, based upon all the circumstances presented, he determined that the Defendant was impaired and arrested him for DUI.

         Sergeant Haywood said that he explained the implied consent law to the Defendant and asked the Defendant to submit to a blood test. The Defendant declined. The officer said that he did not offer the Defendant a breathalyzer test. The officer identified a video taken by another officer of the stop and testing of the Defendant, and the State played the video for the jury.

         In the video, Sergeant Haywood asked the Defendant to follow his finger with his eyes and not his head. The officer moved his finger to the right and the Defendant moved his head to the right. The officer again told the Defendant to follow his finger with his eyes and not his head and moved his finger to his left and right multiple times in front of the Defendant. The Defendant stumbled forward and asked the officer how many times he was going to go back and forth with his finger. Sergeant Haywood asked the Defendant to stand with one foot in front of the other on a white line. The Defendant seemed confused, said he could not do it, and then said he was doing it despite the fact that his feet were not one in front of the other. The officer asked the Defendant to look at the officer's feet as an example, and the Defendant attempted to stand in a similar fashion and stumbled. The Defendant said, "I can't do it." The officer then offered to give the test involving raising one leg. The Defendant said his back was hurt, and the officer offered to skip the test. The Defendant said he would try anything the officer wanted, so the officer gave the Defendant instructions. He asked the Defendant to stand with his feet side by side and his arms down by his side. The Defendant stumbled when assuming this position. The officer asked the Defendant first to look up and close his eyes. The Defendant swayed repeatedly. The Defendant looked back at the officer, and the officer asked him if he knew the ABCs. The Defendant said yes, and the officer asked the Defendant to put his head up and close his eyes. The Defendant complied, but stumbled forwarded into the officer, and the Defendant said, "[W]e're done." The officer arrested the Defendant for DUI.

         During cross-examination, Sergeant Haywood testified that, when he first noticed the Defendant's van, it was in part because the van crossed into the officer's lane of travel as he was driving. The officer said he had to slow down to avoid the van and then the van failed to stop at a stop sign. The officer agreed that there was no video of the Defendant's driving at that point because his cruiser was not equipped with video recording equipment. Sergeant Haywood agreed that the Defendant had a driver's license that he provided to the officer when asked. The officer agreed that, during the field sobriety testing, he became frustrated with the Defendant when the Defendant said he was unable to see a line to walk. The officer explained that the line seemed obvious to him. Sergeant Haywood said that the Columbia Police Department did not have a breathalyzer test. He agreed that there was one located at the jail, but he explained that he did not offer that test to the Defendant, in part because he was not certified on that device. He further explained that he preferred to use a blood test because it could reveal the use of both alcohol and/or other drugs while a breathalyzer test only revealed the presence of alcohol.

         The Defendant testified that he had owned an auto body paint shop in Columbia for twenty-one years. At the time of his arrest, the Defendant had been living in his shop for three or four months, having moved in after separating from his wife. The Defendant stated that the chemicals used in the auto painting industry were damaging to his central nervous system. He said that he also worked at a Chevrolet dealership as the manager and head painter in the body shop. On the day leading to the night of his arrest, the Defendant worked from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After he left work, he drove his van to a store, got a six pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes, and then went to his auto body shop and began working to repaint an Impala. He said that he worked for a two to three hours, drank approximately three or four beers, and then went to bed on a small loveseat in his office between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m.

         The Defendant said that he was living at the auto body shop temporarily and wanted to return home to his wife and kids. He hoped that by staying at the auto body shop his relationship with his wife would improve. Therefore, when he awoke later that evening at around 1:00 a.m. and saw a missed call on his phone that he believed to be from his wife. He believed that his wife would be at her mother's house, so he went there to try to talk to her. The Defendant agreed that he did not change his clothes before leaving and said that, when he was arrested, he was in the same clothing that he had slept in.

         The Defendant said that he did not remember making a wide turn or failing to stop at a stop sign. He recalled feeling nervous when the officer stopped him but said that he followed the officer's instructions. The Defendant said that he suffered from physical problems including missing cartilage in his back, a collarbone injury from a motorcycle accident, and arthritis, and he offered medical records to the jury to confirm his injuries. The Defendant said that doctors had prescribed pain medications for his injuries, but he was unsure whether he took any on the evening of his arrest.

         The Defendant further testified that, around the time of his arrest, he had been feeling dizzy and nauseated, sometimes falling. He had moments where he had to lie down because if he did not he would vomit. The Defendant said that he thought that he was suffering from acute vertigo. The Defendant said that, on the night of his arrest, when he saw the blue lights, he became very confused. The Defendant said that, when the officer asked him to walk the line, he did not understand the officer to mean to walk along a crack in the ground.

         The Defendant said that the area where the officer stopped him had no lighting other than the flashing blue lights and headlights of the police cruisers. He said that there was a gradual uphill incline on the roadway. He said that he could not lean his head back during the nine-step walk and turn task because it made him nauseated. He stated that, even with his medical issues, he attempted to comply with the law and complete the tasks.

         The Defendant explained why he refused a blood test. He said that he had an extremely bad experience at Maury Regional Hospital, and he did not want them "poking or cutting" him in any way. He said he would have taken a breathalyzer test had the officer offered it to him. The Defendant said that his ability to operate a motor vehicle on the night in question was not impaired by alcohol or any drugs.

         During cross-examination, the Defendant testified that he was on his way to his wife's mother's house at the time of his arrest. He said he was unsure why he told the officer that he was on his way home. The Defendant agreed that his medical records indicated that he had been prescribed Hydrocodone for his back pain. He said that he assumed that he took the medications as prescribed but said that he had not taken the Hydrocodone that evening ...

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