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State v. Privett

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 24, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs November 14, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Grundy County No. 5580, 5495 J. Curtis Smith, Judge

         The 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.

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

          B. Jeffery Harmon, District Public Defender, and Robert G. Morgan, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Thomas James Privett.

          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.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.




         The 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.[1] 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 conviction.

         A 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.

         The 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.

         The 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 then."

         The 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 ...

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