Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs November 14, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Grundy County No. 5580, 5495 J.
Curtis Smith, Judge
Defendant, Thomas J. Privett, entered a guilty plea to
vehicular homicide by intoxication, with an agreed sentence
length of ten years and the manner of service to be
determined by the trial court. The trial court held a
sentencing hearing and determined that the Defendant would
serve his sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction.
On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in
denying alternative sentencing and in fully revoking his
probation on a prior conviction. After a review of the
record, we determine that there was no abuse of discretion,
and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Jeffery Harmon, District Public Defender, and Robert G.
Morgan, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Thomas
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia
S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Mike Taylor, District Attorney
General; and David McGovern, Assistant District Attorney
General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Norma McGee Ogle and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.
EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Defendant, while under the influence of methamphetamine, was
driving a vehicle containing three passengers on Highway 108
in Grundy County. The Defendant was aware that a spare
"donut" tire was on the vehicle and was driving in
excess of 100 miles per hour on the curvy highway. An
accident occurred that resulted in the death of one of the
passengers, Mr. Nicholas Hamblin. The Defendant was charged
with one count of vehicular homicide by intoxication, one
count of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, two counts
of vehicular assault, and one count of driving while under
the influence. The State entered into a plea agreement with
the Defendant in which the Defendant would plead guilty to
vehicular homicide by intoxication and the State would
dismiss the remaining charges. The parties agreed to a
sentence of ten years, with a release eligibility of thirty
percent and with the manner of service to be determined by
the trial court. Ten days before the accident occurred, the
Defendant had pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and was
sentenced to four years of probation. His probation was later
revoked as a result of this case, and the Defendant was
sentenced to serve his entire four-year sentence concurrently
with his ten-year sentence for the vehicular homicide
sentencing hearing was held to determine the manner in which
the Defendant's ten-year sentence for the vehicular
homicide conviction would be served. At the hearing, Sheriff
Clint Shrum from the Grundy County Sheriff's Department
testified for the State. Sheriff Shrum testified that he was
a drug recognition expert and instructor, specifically
dealing with the recognition of impaired drivers on
substances other than alcohol. He testified that he believed
there is a "significant problem" with impaired
driving and methamphetamine use in Grundy County. He
testified that, in his opinion, a motorist under the
influence of methamphetamine and driving in excess of eighty
miles per hour on Highway 108 would not be a "safe
situation." Sheriff Shrum acknowledged on cross
examination that he did not have statistical data to support
his statement that methamphetamine use and impaired driving
was "much worse [in Grundy County] than anywhere else,
" but he claimed that he did have data to support the
fact that such problems exist in Grundy County.
State admitted a presentence report into evidence. The report
reflected that the Defendant had a misdemeanor conviction for
possession of drug paraphernalia, for which he received
supervised probation. The report also reflected numerous
driving offenses, as well as judicial diversion for an
evading arrest charge and a reckless endangerment charge. The
presentence report also listed domestic violence and
vandalism charges that were dismissed. The report included a
statement from one of the passengers, Ms. Halie Jo Fults. Ms.
Fults told an officer at the scene, "I ask[ed] [the
Defendant] to slow down; he did not and he knew there was a
spare tire on the vehicle - I would like to know why he did
not slow down." A victim impact statement from Mr.
Hamblin's mother was also included in the report, in
which the mother requested leniency on the Defendant.
Defendant testified that he was twenty-six years old and had
been incarcerated for the past nine months. He stated that he
was being held in a special facility to accommodate his Type
I diabetes, which requires the use of an insulin pump. The
Defendant stated that, on the day of the accident, he had
worked during the day and then went "riding around"
for "probably four hours" with Mr. Hamblin, Ms.
Kalie Franklin, and Ms. Fults. He stated that he shared his
methamphetamine with "one of the females, " whom he
refused to identify, but that he was not the "main
supplier of the vehicle." The Defendant stated that he
did not remember the accident at the time it occurred but
that his memory had returned "a little bit since
Defendant stated that Mr. Hamblin, "was like a
brother" to him and that they had known each other
"since [they] were in diapers." When asked what he
would tell Mr. Hamblin on the day of the hearing, he
responded, "How sorry I am. There's - there's
nothing I can say to him to bring him back." When asked
what he would tell the other two passengers in the vehicle,
he said that he would "[g]ive anything to take it
back." The Defendant told the trial court that ...