Session November 7, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 16-05454 J.
Robert Carter, Jr., Judge
Defendant, James Williams, was convicted by a jury of one
count of driving under the influence (DUI) per se, one count
of DUI, and one count of reckless driving. The trial court
merged the DUI per se conviction with the DUI conviction and
imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to
be served in the county workhouse. On appeal, the Defendant
contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to
suppress, which challenged "the legality of the traffic
stop" resulting in the Defendant's arrest. Following
our review, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal
Terrell L. Tooten, Cordova, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew
C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich,
District Attorney General; and Sam Winnig, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Kelly Thomas Jr, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Camille R. McMullen. and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ.,
KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE
September 13, 2016, the Shelby County grand jury indicted the
Defendant with one count of DUI per se, one count of DUI, and
one count of reckless driving. See Tenn. Code Ann.
§§ 55-10-205, -401. Prior to trial, the Defendant
filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained during the
traffic stop, and a hearing was held on January 20, 2017.
Police Department Officer Michael Huff testified at the
suppression that he was working during "the early
hours" of September 20, 2015, and that he stopped the
Defendant at approximately 2:45 a.m. When asked to describe
the events that led to the traffic stop, Officer Huff
explained, "I was eastbound on I-40 approaching Sycamore
View when I noticed a black Toyota Highlander in front of me,
swerving in and out of lanes[, ] which caught my
attention." Officer Huff specified that the Defendant
was "[c]hanging from lane to lane, [using] no signal,
straddling the lanes, the yellow lines, the line provided in
the roadway." Regarding the condition of I-40, Officer
Huff testified that it was not "free and clear." He
said that due to construction on the road, "there were
no emergency lanes for anybody to pull over" "on
the right hand side" and that there had been
"several accidents because of" the construction.
Huff said that after seeing the Defendant swerving, he
"kept observing" and saw the Defendant "exit
on to Sycamore View and stop at the red-light."
Officer Huff explained that he drove into the lane next to
the Defendant and noticed that the Defendant "had his
phone up and he appeared to be texting." Officer Huff
said that the Defendant was the driver of the Toyota
Highlander and that no one else appeared to be in the
vehicle. Officer Huff was asked if he could see whether
"[the Defendant] was sending a te[x]t" or
specifically what was on the screen of the phone, to which
Officer Huff replied that he "could see the phone
screen" and that the Defendant was holding up the phone.
Huff said that "[o]nce [the Defendant] turned
northbound, he still continued to have his phone up[, ]"
and Officer Huff "initiated a traffic stop."
Officer Huff explained that he used the "blue lights and
siren" on his vehicle and that the Defendant pulled over
his vehicle immediately. Officer Huff testified that he
approached the driver's side of the vehicle and
"asked [the Defendant] for a driver's license,
registration[, ] and proof of insurance." Officer Huff
said that he "could smell the odor of an intoxica[nt]
coming from [the Defendant] and inside the car." Officer
Huff asked the Defendant to exit the vehicle and perform a
series of field sobriety tests. The Defendant exited the
vehicle; however, he refused to do the field sobriety tests.
Officer Huff said that he "placed [the Defendant] under
arrest, under suspicion of DUI." Officer Huff testified
that ultimately, the Defendant was "arrested for a
second offense, DUI." He explained that the Defendant
was "transported for a blood draw."
cross-examination, Officer Huff admitted that he did not know
the exact number of times the Defendant's vehicle
"straddle[ed] the lane or change[d] lanes." Officer
Huff testified that it was "[m]ore than once, " but
"less than ten times[.]" He explained, "I have
to drive, too[.] . . . I have to maintain . . . watching the
road and try to watch everything else." When asked if
the basis for his traffic stop was "for the texting[,
]" Officer Huff responded, "Yes, sir." Defense
counsel asked Officer Huff how long he observed the
Defendant's holding up the phone, and Officer Huff
replied, "The [traffic] light was approximately one
minute and [the Defendant] ...