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Latham v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

June 5, 2019

Rusty Lee LATHAM, Appellant
v.
STATE of Arkansas, Appellee

          APPEAL FROM THE MILLER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 46CR-17-602], HONORABLE BRENT HALTOM, JUDGE

         Carolyn Lee Whitefield, for appellant.

         Leslie Rutledge, Att’y Gen., by: Joseph Karl Luebke, Ass’t Att’y Gen., for appellee.

         OPINION

         BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

Page 733

          Appellant Rusty Lee Latham pleaded guilty in the Miller County District Court to driving while intoxicated (DWI) and refusal to submit to a chemical test. He then appealed those judgments to the Miller County Circuit Court where a jury found him guilty of both offenses. He argues on appeal to this court that the circuit court erred in denying his directed-verdict motion and in denying his motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). We do not reach the merits of Latham’s arguments because the circuit court did not acquire jurisdiction due to Latham’s failure to perfect his appeal from district court. Accordingly, we reverse and vacate the circuit court’s judgment, and we reinstate the district court’s judgments of conviction.

          I. Procedural History

         Latham was charged with DWI and refusal to submit to a chemical test, to which he pleaded guilty on November 13, 2016. The district court’s docket sheets in the record indicate that bench trials were held on August 25, 2017. They also indicate that the district court found Latham guilty of each offense and entered orders to that effect.[1] On September 18, the district court judge signed a separate judgment with respect to both offenses, but it is not file marked and is not reflected on either of the district court’s docket sheets. There are no entries on the docket sheets after August 25.

          On September 19, 2017, Latham filed in the circuit court a notice of appeal, an affidavit of appeal, and an appeal bond. The circuit court’s docket sheet reflects that Latham filed the "appeal" and paid $ 150. The circuit court accepted jurisdiction.

         Latham was tried before a Miller County jury on May 4, 2018, and he was found guilty of both offenses. A sentencing order was entered May 22.[2]

          Before entry of the sentencing order, Latham moved on May 16, 2018, for a JNOV asserting that his convictions should be reversed and dismissed because the arresting officer was not legally certified to be a Miller County deputy sheriff. A hearing was held on Latham’s JNOV motion on June 8, and the circuit court entered a five-page order denying Latham’s motion on June 12. On June 21, 2018, Latham filed a notice of appeal to this court "from the judgment and sentence herein entered on May 22, 2018."

          II. Appeals from District Court to Circuit Court

         Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 36(a) provides that a ...


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