Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session September 19, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Hamilton County No. 294613 Barry
A. Steelman, Judge
Defendant, Julia Sanford, was indicted for failure to
maintain her lane, violation of the financial responsibility
law, driving under the influence, and driving under the
influence per se with a blood alcohol content of .20
or higher. The Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress
the evidence resulting from the traffic stop of her vehicle.
The trial court denied the Defendant's motion, and the
Defendant pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and
reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee
Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) as to whether the stop of
the Defendant's vehicle by law enforcement was lawful.
After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Davis and Janie Parks Varnell, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for
the appellant, Julia Sanford.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; M. Neal
Pinkston, District Attorney General; and AnCharlene Davis,
Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Norma McGee Ogle and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
Facts and Background
case arises from the stop of the Defendant's vehicle on
July 11, 2014, following which the Defendant was arrested for
driving under the influence ("DUI"). Before trial,
the Defendant filed a motion to suppress, contending that the
police officer who stopped her vehicle did so unlawfully
because he did not have reasonable suspicion based on
specific and articulable facts to do so. The trial court held
a hearing, during which the following evidence was presented:
Officer Brian Blumenberg testified that he was employed by
the Chattanooga Police Department in July of 2014 and on the
DUI Task Force at the time. On July 11, 2014, at
approximately 2:00 a.m., Officer Blumenberg was traveling
southbound towards downtown Chattanooga on a divided
four-lane road when he observed the Defendant's vehicle
approaching him in the oncoming northbound lanes. He observed
the vehicle "swerve over from the fast lane and was
partially into the . . . turning lane. . ., [and] continued
going straight, " following which he turned his police
vehicle around and followed the Defendant's vehicle. He
noticed the Defendant's vehicle was going "pretty
fast" although he did not clock the vehicle's speed.
Officer Blumenberg testified that it took him a
"substantial amount of time" to catch up to the
Defendant's vehicle, which also indicated to him that the
Defendant's vehicle was traveling fast. When he caught up
to the Defendant's vehicle, he noticed that it was in two
lanes of traffic at the same time, the right-hand "turn
only" lane and the straight lane. These lanes were
separated by a solid white line. At this point the officer
activated his blue lights.
State introduced as an exhibit and played for the trial court
the video recording from Officer Blumenberg's dash
camera. In the video, the Defendant's oncoming vehicle
passes Officer Blumenberg's vehicle at 1:51:12 a.m.
turns his vehicle around ten seconds later at 1:51:22 a.m.
and does not catch up to the Defendant's vehicle until
1:52:40 a.m. It is not clear in the video if the
Defendant's vehicle swerved over a lane-dividing line or
crossed over into another lane. In court, Officer Blumenberg
indicated on the video where the Defendant's vehicle,
while traveling towards him, crossed over the line dividing
the "fast" lane and the "turning" lane.
cross-examination, Officer Blumenberg again identified where
in the video recording the Defendant's vehicle crossed
over into the turning lane while she was traveling straight.
He stated that she did this as she came around a curve in the
road, which he clarified meant that she was driving
"wide in the curve" and not maintaining her lane of
travel. He agreed that the Defendant was not cited for
trial court denied the Defendant's motion to suppress,
making the following statements:
I think it's difficult to determine, for the Court to
determine, and I think that was evidenced even in the hearing
as the parties attempted to roll and then rewind the video
related to where the [Defendant's] motor vehicle was
The witness who is in the best position to testify where the
[Defendant's] motor vehicle was located is Officer
Blumenberg. I do find that his testimony about where the
[D]efendant's vehicle was located is credible. He was on
the roadway that ...