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Lockhart v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

January 26, 2017




          Jones Law Firm, by: F. Parker Jones III, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Christian Harris, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          RHONDA K. WOOD, Associate Justice

         Edward Lockhart was convicted of driving while intoxicated, his sixth conviction for this offense, and failure to submit to a chemical test. He now asserts a plethora of arguments in this appeal, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the initial traffic stop, the validity of the criminal information, and various sentencing issues. We accepted certification of this case from the Arkansas Court of Appeals under Arkansas Supreme Court Rule 1-2(d). We affirm on all grounds Lockhart asserts for reversal.

         I. Facts

         This appeal comes from Edward Lockhart's convictions for driving while intoxicated and for failing to submit to a chemical test. A jury sentenced him to twenty years in prison. The relevant facts, which were adduced at trial, are as follows. In the early morning in November 2013, Officer Troy White observed a car driving ten miles under the speed limit on Highway 5 in Bryant. Officer White testified that, after following the car for some time, he saw the car weaving and crossing the centerline a number of times. Officer White then turned on his patrol car's blue lights and pulled the car over.

         Edward Lockhart was the car's driver. Officer White approached the car and smelled a strong odor of alcohol. Lockhart asked if he could step out of the car, and Officer White agreed. After Lockhart exited his car, Officer White saw "a little stagger to his walk." At one point, Lockhart asked where he was stopped. Officer White answered that he was in Bryant. Lockhart said he lived just up the road in Bryant, but Officer White later determined that Lockhart actually lived on 24th Street in Little Rock, at least a twenty-five-minute drive away.

         Officer White also performed three field-sobriety tests. The first test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus, yielded no conclusion. The second test, the one-leg stand, Lockhart barely completed, and this test, too, yielded no conclusion. Lockhart indicated that he could not complete this test due to a military-related injury. The final test, the field breathalyzer, yielded no conclusion because Lockhart refused to submit. Based on all the foregoing, Officer White arrested Lockhart and took him to the station.

         At the station, Officer White again attempted to have Lockhart complete a breathalyzer test. Before attempting this, Officer White read Lockhart a statement-of-rights form regarding the driving-while-intoxicated laws. Officer White asked Lockhart if he understood these rights and whether he would consent to the test. Lockhart said that he did not understand and would not take the test. Lockhart also asked to speak with his attorney. Officer White refused, telling Lockhart that he had no right to an attorney before taking the machine-breathalyzer test. Lockhart ultimately refused to take this test as well.

         II. Discussion

         A. Sufficiency of evidence

         Lockhart's first argument on appeal is that substantial evidence does not support either conviction. First, he asserts that no evidence was ever admitted to show that his motor skills were impaired. Second, he argues that his failure to submit conviction should have been dismissed because the police officer never informed him that he had no right to counsel when deciding to take the machine-breathalyzer test. These arguments lack merit.

         In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court determines whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Jeffries v. State, 2014 Ark. 239, 434 S.W.3d 889. Substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id. This court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and only evidence supporting the verdict will be considered. Id. It is well settled that it is the province of the fact-finder to determine the weight of evidence and the credibility of witnesses. Johnson v. State, 337 Ark. 196, 987 S.W.2d 694 (1999).

         The law in effect at the time provided that "[i]t is unlawful and punishable as provided in this chapter for a person who is intoxicated to operate or be in actual physical control of a motorboat on the waters of this state or a motor vehicle." Ark. Code Ann. § 5-65-103(a)(1) (Supp. 2013). Intoxicated is defined by statute as follows:

[I]nfluenced or affected by the ingestion of alcohol, a controlled substance, any intoxicant, or any combination of alcohol, a controlled substance, or an intoxicant, to such a degree that the driver's reactions, motor skills, and judgment are substantially altered and the driver, therefore, constitutes a clear and ...

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