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State v. Carter

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 25, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
MICHAEL C. CARTER

          Assigned on Briefs April 24, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sullivan County No. S66911, S67168 R. Jerry Beck, Judge

         Defendant, Michael C. Carter, was charged via presentment with one count of failure to appear, one count of being a habitual traffic offender, one count of failure to provide law enforcement evidence of financial responsibility, one count of operating a motor vehicle on a public road with a false registration, and one count of failure to dim headlights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle. Defendant pled guilty and was sentenced to an effective sentence of four years in incarceration. Defendant appeals to this Court, arguing that the trial court improperly denied alternative sentencing. After a complete review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Stephen M. Wallace, District Public Defender; M. Tyler Harrison, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Michael C. Carter.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ruth Anne Thompson, Senior Counsel; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Mitchell B. Watson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE

         In September of 2016, Defendant was charged by the Sullivan County Grand Jury with one count of felony failure to appear. In November of 2016, the Sullivan County Grand Jury returned a four-count presentment charging Defendant with one count of being a habitual traffic offender, one count of failure to provide law enforcement evidence of financial responsibility, one count of operating a motor vehicle on a public road with a false registration, and one count of failure to dim headlights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle. On April 7, 2017, Defendant entered guilty pleas to all five counts, leaving the manner of service and length of the sentence for the determination of the trial court. The transcript of the guilty plea hearing does not appear in the record on appeal.

         At a sentencing hearing, Defendant sought an alternative sentence. Defendant testified that he was sixty-three years of age and that it had been six years since he had a criminal conviction. Defendant admitted that he used to have a problem "drinking beer" but that he quit drinking because it "tormented everybody [he] was associated with . . . disrupted [his family], [and] cost [him] money" as well as "jail time." Defendant admitted that he had a significant criminal history and that he failed to complete a probationary sentence in the past because his wife was having surgery and he missed a weekend in jail.[1] As a result of the violation, Defendant served 128 days in incarceration. Defendant explained that he was plagued by a bevy of health problems, including one herniated disc in his neck, two herniated discs in his lower back, a bad hip, restless leg syndrome, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Defendant had open heart surgery seven years prior to the sentencing hearing. Defendant admitted that he experimented with marijuana in high school but that he did not like it so he discontinued using it. Defendant asked the trial court for a "chance" to prove "that [he] can do right and [he's] been doing right." Defendant admitted that he picked up a charge for failure to appear in court while the charges were pending because he "wrote [the date] down on the calendar wrong."

         The trial court acknowledged that Defendant had a "long record" coupled with a "long history of his own admission of beer use" and that Defendant continued to accumulate more convictions as he aged. The trial court commented that Defendant was definitely getting older but it did not appear he was getting "much wiser." The trial court noted Defendant had three prior felonies including a grand larceny, a failure to appear, and a conviction for being a habitual traffic offender. However, the trial court noted that the plea agreement called for Defendant to be sentenced as a Range I offender. The trial court noted that the failure to appear and habitual traffic offender sentences were mandatorily consecutive and ordered Defendant to serve his effective four-year sentence in incarceration. The trial court commented it was difficult to "be confident that [Defendant] would not be in further trouble" and that Defendant presented a "danger" to the community.

         Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal.

         Analysis

         On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court's denial of an alternative sentence. Specifically, Defendant claims the trial court abused its discretion by failing to properly apply the ...


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