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State v. Morgan

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 20, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
JULIE A. MORGAN (MORAN)

          Session: December 19, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Unicoi County No. 6885 Lisa N. Rice, Judge

         The Appellant, Julie A. Morgan (Moran), appeals from the Unicoi County Criminal Court's denial of her "motion to set aside disposition and/or retired status of traffic citation for mistake and to reset for further consideration." On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court should have treated her motion as a petition for post-conviction relief or applied Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 "for post[-]judgment relief." Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Stanley F. LaDuke, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Julie A. Morgan (Moran).

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Anthony Wade Clark, District Attorney General; and Ryan Spencer Curtis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

         On June 21, 2016, the Appellant, who was a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, received a citation for speeding in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-152. The Appellant's last name was misspelled "Morgan" rather than "Moran" on the citation. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-207(f), the Appellant mailed a check for the fine and costs to the clerk of the Unicoi County General Sessions Court, and a disposition of "Guilty Plea-As Charged" was entered in that court on July 18, 2016.

          In October 2016, the Appellant received a letter from the North Carolina Department of Transportation informing her that her driving privileges would be suspended for six months due to her Tennessee speeding conviction. In December 2016, the Appellant filed the instant "motion to set aside disposition and/or retired status of traffic citation for mistake and to reset for further consideration" in the general sessions court. The motion alleged that the Appellant's payment of the fine and costs was "a mistake of fact" and that she would not have done so had she known that "her driving privileges in her home state of North Carolina would be suspended as a result." The motion also noted that the Appellant's last name was misspelled on the citation. The general sessions court denied the motion.

         The Appellant appealed the general sessions court's denial of her motion to the trial court. The Appellant then filed an "argument in support of motion to amend or to set aside disposition and or retired status of traffic citation for mistake." In this document, the Appellant argued that "a traffic citation . . . [was] more of a civil action" and that Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 should be applied to provide "relief [for] a mistake of fact." The Appellant also argued that her payment of the fine and costs was "a disposition of 'no contest' rather than a conviction of 'guilty.'" The Appellant again noted that her last name was misspelled on the citation.

         The trial court held a hearing on this matter, at which the Appellant's counsel argued that speeding was not a criminal offense; therefore, the Rules of Civil Procedure should be applied to this case. The Appellant's counsel then argued that he was asking the trial court to craft a civil remedy analogous to post-conviction relief in a criminal proceeding. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court denied the motion. The trial court found that speeding in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-152 was a criminal offense, that the Rules of Criminal Procedure applied to this case, and that the Appellant's claims were not cognizable under any form of post-conviction relief.

         The Appellant now appeals to this court. The Appellant contends that the trial court should have treated her motion as a petition for post-conviction relief or applied Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 "for post[-]judgment relief." The Appellant continues to equivocate as to whether a violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-152 is a criminal offense or a civil matter. This equivocation has made it difficult to discern the Appellant's issues. It appears that the Appellant argues that her plea to the speeding offense was not knowingly and voluntarily entered due to the fact that she was unaware that her conviction would result in the suspension of her driving privileges in North Carolina. The Appellant also appears to argue that the citation was somehow invalid due to the misspelling of her last name. The State responds that the trial court did not err in denying the Appellant's motion.

          A violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-152 is a criminal offense. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-103, it is a Class C misdemeanor. Class C misdemeanors are punishable by "not greater than thirty [] days or a fine not to exceed fifty dollars [], or both, unless otherwise provided by statute." Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-111(e)(3). Accordingly, this matter is "governed by the rules and statutes dealing with criminal procedure." Duane M. Coleman v. State, No. M2012-00848-CCA-R3-PC, 2013 WL 948430, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 11, 2013). As such, the Appellant's reliance on Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 is misplaced as ...


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