FROM THE DREW COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 22CR-15-145]
HONORABLE SAM POPE, JUDGE AFFIRMED
F. Gibson, for appellant.
Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Vada Berger, Ass't
Att'y Gen., for appellee.
and BROWN, JJ., agree.
BRANDON J. HARRISON, Judge
Stuart appeals from the circuit court's order denying his
motion to suppress, arguing that the police officer lacked
probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. We affirm.
July 2015, Stuart was arrested and charged with driving while
intoxicated (DWI), refusal to submit to chemical test,
careless and prohibited driving, and carrying a firearm. In
December 2015, he was found guilty of DWI and refusal to
submit to chemical test by the Drew County District
Court. Stuart timely sought de novo
review by the Drew County Circuit Court.
2016, Stuart moved to suppress all evidence from what he
claimed was an illegal traffic stop made "without
probable cause and without reasonable suspicion." Stuart
also waived his right to a trial by jury, and the court
convened a bench trial on May 17. The court first addressed
the motion to suppress and stated, "I read the report.
It looked like there was probable cause. Why should we have a
hearing?" Counsel responded that the court should watch
the video of the traffic stop "to see if there was
careless driving that he could have stopped him for. He had
no probable cause." Without ruling on the motion, the
court directed counsel to proceed with calling Officer James
Slaughter to the stand.
a patrol officer with the Monticello Police Department,
identified Stuart as the person he had stopped on 19 July
2015. Slaughter testified that on that date, dispatch
notified officers of a report of a reckless driver in a red
Ford pickup driving north on Highway 425. Slaughter, who was
driving south on Highway 425, spotted a red Ford pickup,
turned around, and got behind it. According to Slaughter, the
truck was "weaving between the lanes, but it never
crossed the lanes until we got up to 425 and 278
intersection." Slaughter said that they stopped at a red
light at the intersection of Highways 425 and 278; that after
the light turned green, the truck proceeded through the
intersection; and that the truck momentarily crossed into the
turning lane before coming back into its lane. (There was no
vehicle in the turn lane at that time.) Slaughter promptly
initiated a traffic stop, approached Stuart's vehicle,
spoke to him, and noticed that he had blood shot, watery
point, defense counsel asked the court to rule on his motion
to suppress and again stated that the video of the traffic
stop was the best evidence. The court "overruled"
his testimony, Slaughter said that he could smell alcohol on
Stuart's breath and that his speech was slightly slurred.
Slaughter asked Stuart to blow into a portable breath test
(PBT) device and to perform several field-sobriety tests, the
results of which indicated to Slaughter that Stuart was
placed Stuart under arrest for DWI and transported him to the
county detention facility. Slaughter then read to Stuart the
DWI statement-of-rights form and asked Stuart if he
understood it. Stuart said yes and initialed and signed the
form. Slaughter next asked Stuart if he would submit to a
breath test, and Stuart said that he would not. According to
Slaughter, Stuart said that he refused the breath test
because he did not want to lose his CDL license.
video of the traffic stop was introduced by the defense and
played for the court. On cross-examination, Slaughter agreed
that he would like to see a conviction in this case; on
redirect, he explained, "The way I look at it, if people
get away with DWIs, they keep doing it and it's a chance
they could wreck and kill somebody in the future if
they're not, if it don't reflect on them now."
He confirmed that he still believed Stuart was too impaired
to safely operate a vehicle at the time of the stop.
Smith, Stuart's brother-in-law, testified that he was
with Stuart on 19 July 2015 and that he did not see Stuart
consume any alcohol. Rachel Smith, Stuart's sister,
likewise testified that Stuart did not consume any alcohol on
July 19, but she also said that she did not see him after
3:00 or 4:00 p.m. Stuart testified
that he was not guilty and that if found guilty, he would
lose his license and be unable to work. He claimed that on 19
July 2015, he had been awake since 5:00 a.m. and was sore
from doing yard work all day. He admitted that he had two
beers over the course of the day. He explained that any
possible weaving in his lane was caused by him reaching
across to adjust a GPS unit that was attached to his
windshield with suction cups. He also stated that he did not
pass the ...