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State v. Davis

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

August 24, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER DAVIS

          Session June 27, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 107367 Bobby R. McGee, Judge

         Upon the request of the Department of Safety, the State filed a petition to declare William Christopher Davis, the Defendant, a "habitual offender" pursuant to Motor Vehicle Habitual Offenders Act ("the MVHO Act"). The trial court dismissed the petition after concluding that the MVHO Act was ambiguous regarding when the State had a duty to file a petition. On appeal, the State argues that it has an appeal as of right under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) from the dismissal of its petition and that the trial court erred in dismissing its petition on the grounds that the MVHO Act was ambiguous and penal in nature. The Defendant argues that the State does not have an appeal as of right from the dismissal of its petition and that the trial court correctly dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the facts of this case and applicable case law, we conclude that the State does not have an appeal as of right from the dismissal of a motor vehicle habitual offender petition, and thus we dismiss the State's appeal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Appeal Dismissed

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Charme Allen, District Attorney General; and Gregory Eshbaugh, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          James R. Owen, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, William Christopher Davis.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On February 1, 2016, the Department of Safety requested that the District Attorney's Office of the Sixth Judicial District petition to have the Defendant declared a "habitual offender" as defined in Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-603(2) of the MVHO Act. On February 25, 2016, the District Attorney's Office filed the petition claiming that the Defendant had been convicted of DUI in Knox County on December 30, 2015, driving on a revoked license in Williamson County on October 2, 2012, and DUI in Williamson County on February 22, 2012. The Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the petition on September 8, 2016. The motion alleged that on February 10, 2016, after the Defendant pled guilty to the DUI charge in Knox County, he requested a restricted license order and that the State did not object. On February 17, 2016, he installed an interlock device in his vehicle, obtained SR22 insurance, paid a sixty-seven dollar ($67.00) fee to the State, and was issued a restricted license. The motion alleged that:

When the [Defendant] pled guilty in docket [#]1136345 on December 30, 2015, the [S]tate had notice that the [D]efendant had the three triggering convictions that the [S]tate subsequently relied upon in the petition to declare the [D]efendant a habitual motor vehicle offender. At that time, the [S]tate chose not to comply with the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated [section] 55-10-618 (b) and did not file or give the [D]efendant notice of a habitual motor vehicle offender petition. The [S]tate did not file the petition to declare the [Defendant] a habitual motor vehicle offender until February 25, 2016, two months after the date of his plea.

         On September 29, 2016, the trial court heard the parties' arguments concerning the State's petition. The trial court admitted the Department of Safety's Habitual Offender MVR [motor vehicle report], which was dated February 1, 2016, into evidence. The trial court stated the following:

[I]t does appear that there may be an ambiguity in the law as to just what procedure should be followed when the Attorney General knows that the prosecution is bringing - at that time, is going to be the triggering conviction for the statute and intends to use it as the trigger and to seek revocations of the license. And even though it's not technically a criminal matter, it still is penal in nature. And I think the Court would have to resolve the ambiguity in favor of the [D]efendant.

         Accordingly, the trial court dismissed the State's petition. The State filed its ...


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