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State v. Sprague

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 3, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
LEE ALAN SPRAGUE

          Session December 19, 2017

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Roane County No. 2012-CR-170 Michael Pemberton, Judge No. E2017-00721-CCA-R3-CD

         The defendant, Lee Alan Sprague, appeals his Roane County Criminal Court jury convictions of reckless driving and driving on a suspended license, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new preliminary hearing. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Stephen G. McGrath, Knoxville, Tennessee (on appeal), and William Wooten, Assistant District Public Defender (at trial), for the appellant, Lee Alan Sprague.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Russell Johnson, District Attorney General; and Terry Stevens and Joe Caldwell, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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

          OPINION

          JAMES CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE

         On July 14, 2011, the defendant was arrested on a number of traffic-related offenses, including driving under the influence ("DUI") and reckless driving. On December 12, 2011, the Roane County General Sessions Court held a preliminary hearing, at the conclusion of which the defendant's case was bound over to the grand jury. In June 2012, the Roane County Grand Jury charged the defendant with one count each of reckless driving, driving on a canceled, suspended, or revoked license, and driving under the influence ("DUI").[1] The defendant was arraigned on June 25, 2012.

         Over three years later, on October 5, 2015, the defendant sought a new preliminary hearing pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 5.1(a)(3).[2] On the following day, just prior to the commencement of the defendant's jury trial, the trial court held a hearing on the motion, at which the defendant claimed that he had requested audio recordings of the preliminary hearing a "couple of months ago" but that he had discovered one week prior that the cassette tape he had received did not contain the recording of the hearing. The defendant contended that the trial court "could" order a new preliminary hearing under Rule 5.1(a)(3) even if the request was made more than 60 days after the defendant's arraignment. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the defendant had been arraigned shortly after his June 2012 indictment and that the defendant was outside the 60-day window provided in Rule 5.1.

         The trial court conducted a jury trial on October 6, 2015. The State's proof at trial established that, at approximately 3:00 a.m. on July 14, 2011, Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Matthew Vespie was stationed on an entrance ramp to Interstate 40 running "stationary radar" when a yellow pickup truck drove through the radar screen at 92 miles per hour in a 70-mile-per-hour zone. Trooper Vespie eventually caught up with the pickup truck and stopped the driver, whom he identified in court as the defendant.

         When Trooper Vespie asked the defendant to step out of his vehicle, he noticed that the defendant was unsteady on his feet and had an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his person. Trooper Vespie administered field sobriety tests to the defendant and, based on the defendant's poor performance on the tests, Trooper Vespie placed the defendant under arrest for DUI. After arresting the defendant, Trooper Vespie checked the defendant's driving history and learned that the defendant's driver's license had been suspended three months prior. Through Trooper Vespie's testimony, the State introduced into evidence a video recording of the traffic stop and the field sobriety tests.

         With this evidence, the State rested. Following a Momon colloquy and the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion for judgments of acquittal, the defendant elected not to testify and presented no proof. Based on this evidence, the jury found the defendant not guilty of DUI but convicted the defendant as charged of driving on a suspended license and reckless driving. The trial court sentenced the defendant to a term of six months unsupervised probation for the conviction of driving on a suspended license, to be served concurrently to his six-month sentence for reckless driving, all but 10 days of which were suspended to unsupervised probation.

         Following the denial of his timely motion for new trial, the defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. In this appeal, the defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new preliminary hearing and by failing to grant an extension of time to ...


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