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State v. Amble

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 27, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
MICHAEL JAMES AMBLE

          Assigned on Briefs August 15, 2017

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Loudon County No. 14-CR-264 Michael S. Pemberton, Judge

         Defendant, Michael James Amble, was indicted by the Loudon County Grand Jury on one count each of DUI; DUI, multiple offenses; refusal of implied consent; driving while license cancelled, suspended, or revoked; possession of drug paraphernalia; speeding; and registration violation. Following a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of DUI and driving on a suspended license, and the jury found him not guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia. Following a bifurcated hearing, the jury found Defendant guilty of second offense DUI. The trial court found that Defendant violated the implied consent law, and the remaining offenses were dismissed on motion of the State. Following a sentencing hearing, Defendant was sentenced to 11 months and 29 days with all but 45 days suspended. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that: 1) the trial court erred by not granting his motion for judgment of acquittal with respect to the charge of possession of drug paraphernalia; and 2) that the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction for DUI. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Ian McCabe, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael James Amble.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Russell Johnson; District Attorney General; and Joe Caldwell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Camille R. McMullen and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Facts

         On July 20, 2013, Christopher Hutchens, of the Loudon County Sheriff's Office, initiated a traffic stop of Defendant's vehicle because Defendant was driving 53 miles-per-hour in a 45 mile-per-hour zone. When Officer Hutchens approached Defendant's vehicle, he noticed an odor of alcohol. He also observed that Defendant's speech was slurred, and Defendant's eyes were bloodshot. Officer Hutchens asked Defendant to step out of his vehicle. Officer Hutchens administered three field sobriety tests. Officer Hutchens testified about the results of only two of the tests. Prior to the tests, he asked Defendant if he had a medical condition that would prevent him from performing the tests, and Defendant responded that he did not.

         Officer Hutchens demonstrated the "walk and turn" test for Defendant. Officer Hutchens testified that Defendant's performance on the test "did not meet the standard of someone who would not be impaired." He testified that Defendant could not keep his balance during the instructional phase. He testified that Defendant "performed it completely wrong the first time [and he] allowed [Defendant] to receive the instructions again and try to perform it a second time. Officer Hutchens testified, "[m]y conclusion based singly on that test would be that he was driving impaired." Officer Hutchens also had Defendant perform the one-leg stand test. He testified that Defendant exhibited several clues indicating impairment, including raising his hands, hopping and putting his foot down, and swaying.

         A dash cam video recording of the incident was presented to the jury. Officer Hutchens testified that while he was attempting to stop Defendant's vehicle, Defendant "crossed over the center line when negotiating [a] cur[ve], hit the rumble strip and then actually comes back out." Regarding the quality of the video, Officer Hutchens testified "July weather is starting to take over and starting to condensate inside - on the outside of the vehicle." Acknowledging that the quality of the video was poor, Officer Hutchens described Defendant's performance of the field sobriety tests. He testified that during the nine-step walk and turn test, Defendant "raised his arms for balance and he stepped off the line." During the one-leg stand, Defendant "swayed to a degree that [he] felt for [Defendant's] safety not to continue any further on to 30 seconds."

         Officer Hutchens placed Defendant under arrest and read the implied consent form to him and asked Defendant to submit to a blood alcohol test. Defendant refused to sign the form and refused to take a blood test. Officer Hutchens testified that he arrested Defendant "based . . . on the totality of the entire incident, so from the time that [he] observed him speeding all the way up until the moment [he] determined to make the arrest."

         Officer Hutchens asked Defendant for consent to search his vehicle, and Defendant consented. Officer Hutchens testified that he found a pipe used to smoke marijuana ...


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