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Clay v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

September 4, 2019

GEORGE L. CLAY, III APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST DIVISION [NO. 60CR-16-2538] HONORABLE LEON JOHNSON, JUDGE.

          William R. Simpson, Jr., Public Defender, by: Clint Miller, Deputy Public Defender, for appellant.

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

          ROBERT J. GLADWIN, JUDGE.

         In this appeal of his June 28, 2018 conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI), George L. Clay III argues that the circuit court abused its discretion by admitting hearsay evidence during his bench trial and that he was prejudiced as a result. We affirm.

         I. Procedural History

         Clay was charged with DWI and having been previously convicted of seven DWIs charged within ten years of the first offense. He was also charged with possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance. At trial, the arresting police officer testified that Clay had been found passed out in the driver's seat of his car, which was in a ditch. He was revived by emergency personnel and taken to the hospital. Police found two and a half Tylenol oxycodone pills in Clay's wallet. Clay refused a blood test, but the officer said that he believed Clay was intoxicated because of his bloodshot eyes, his slurred speech, his erratic behavior, and the odor of intoxicants about his person.

         At the conclusion of the State's testimonial evidence, the State offered certified copies of Clay's three prior misdemeanor-DWI convictions and four prior felony-DWI convictions. The misdemeanors were evidenced by certified docket sheets from the Sherwood District Court and the North Little Rock District Court, and the felonies were represented by sentencing orders filed in the Pulaski County Circuit Court. Clay objected to the certified copies of the docket sheets arguing that the documents did not fall under the exceptions to the rule excluding hearsay. Specifically, Clay argued that the documents should not be admitted under either Arkansas Rule of Evidence 803(8) (public-records exception) or Rule 803(22) (prior-judgments-of-conviction exception). The circuit court overruled the objection and admitted the docket sheets.

         Clay was found guilty of violating Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-65-103(a)(1) (Repl. 2016), DWI sixth or subsequent offense, and section 5-64-419(b)(2)(A) (Repl. 2016), possession of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, and he was sentenced to six years' imprisonment on each count to be served concurrently in the Arkansas Department of Correction. He filed a timely notice of appeal, and this appeal followed.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review evidentiary rulings using an abuse-of-discretion standard, and trial courts are afforded wide discretion in evidentiary rulings. Campbell v. State, 2017 Ark. App. 59, at 4, 512 S.W.3d 663, 666. Our court will not reverse an evidentiary ruling absent a showing of error and resulting prejudice. Id.

We construe court rules using the same principles and canons of construction used to interpret our statutes. Jones v. State, 2018 Ark. App. 211. When reviewing issues of statutory interpretation, the first rule in considering the meaning and effect of a statute is to construe it just as it reads, giving words their ordinary and usually accepted meaning in common language. Rylwell, L.L.C. v. Ark. Dev. Fin. Auth., 372 Ark. 32, 269 S.W.3d 797 (2007). When the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, there is no need to resort to the rules of statutory construction. Id.

Cruz v. State, 2019 Ark. App. 91, at 3, 572 S.W.3d 27, 28. We review issues of statutory construction de novo, as it is for the appellate court to decide what a statute means. Hodges v. Huckabee, 338 Ark. 454, 459, 995 S.W.2d 341, 345 (1999).

         III. Arkansas Rule ...


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