Friday, May 11, 2012

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upholds Conviction for DUI: no requirement for police to give blood or breath test.

In State of Tennessee v. Gail Lynn Padgett, a Knox County woman was convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (her fourth conviction), driving on a revoked license and two counts of disorderly conduct. The trial court sentenced Padgett to one year in jail with 150 days served in conferment and the rest on probation. Her license was revoked for five years and she was required to attend DUI school. 

Padgett has appealed, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction, the trial court erred in denying her Motion to Dismiss for the State’s failure to preserve evidence and for denying her Motion to Suppress evidence of her actions to police due to lack of the probable cause necessary to have arrested her in the first place. The State Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Padgett’s claims and affirmed the ruling of the trial court.

Padgett first filed a Motion to Suppress arguing that video evidence attained by the arresting officer’s police car should be suppressed due to the lack of probable cause in arresting her. The facts showed the following: At a little after 8 in the morning on May 28, 2008, Officer James Wilson got a call about an accident. He arrived and testified that before exiting his vehicle he turned on the microphone and video recorder in his police cruiser. 

While speaking to those at the scene, Wilson hit a car passing by her driveway. Padgett started yelling that she was not in the wrong. Wilson allegedly observed Padgett stumbling and detected a very strong odor of alcohol on her breath. Based on this behavior he placed her under arrest. Because of Padgett’s erratic behavior he was unable to perform any field sobriety tests. Wilson later swore out a warrant for her arrest noting her slurred speech, glassy bloodshot eyes and her unsteadiness while walking. Wilson admits to not listing the smell of alcohol and explained that he must have just forgotten to write it down. The trial court agreed that Officer Wilson had probable cause to arrest Padgett for disorderly conduct, not DUI, and denied Padgett’s Motion to Suppress.

Padgett then filed a Motion to Dismiss due to lack of evidence. No blood alcohol test was ever performed nor was a Breathalyzer test administered. Wilson claims this was because of Padgett’s wild behavior following her arrest. The trial court again denied Padgett’s Motion and decided to proceed. 

At trial much the same evidence was discussed. The video and audio recordings were also admitted into evidence and seemed to support much of what Officer Wilson had testified to. 

On appeal, Padgett contends that because no field sobriety tests were performed there can be no evidence to support a DUI conviction. The State counters by saying that other evidence supports such a conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the state, citing the three witnesses who testified to Padgett’s appearance and behavior that day. Such evidence is adequate for a reasonable trier of fact to conclude that she was under the influence and a field sobriety test is not required to support a DUI conviction.

With regard to Padgett’s Motion to Dismiss, the Court of Criminal Appeals says that there is no duty by an officer to administer a blood alcohol test. The only requirement is that if such a test is not administered, then that failure shall be “admissible in evidence in a criminal proceeding.” T.C.A. Section 55-10-407(b). Here that hurdle was cleared as the jury was fully informed during both direct and cross-examination that Wilson did not request that Padgett submit to a blood alcohol test. 

Turning to the Motion to Suppress, the Court says that Wilson had sufficient probable cause to justify an arrest for disorderly conduct and that Wilson did not have to explain to Padgett that she was being arrested for such a charge in order to make the arrest valid. The Court went further in saying that Wilson did have probable cause to arrest Padgett for DUI. Under T.C.A. Section 40-7-103(a)(6), Wilson personally observed Padgett’s behavior and actions and believed she was intoxicated, thus granting him the probable cause necessary to arrest Padgett for DUI.

For the full opinion, click here.


No comments:

Post a Comment