Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Ray County. The Honorable Kevin L. Walden, Judge.
Gabriel E. Harris, Jefferson City, for respondent.
Margaret M. Johnston, Columbia, MO for appellant.
Before Division Four: Alok Ahuja, C.J., and James E. Welsh and Gary D. Witt, JJ. All concur.
Alok Ahuja, Chief Judge.
Jesse Hicks was charged as an aggravated driving while intoxicated (" DWI" ) offender with one count of felony DWI, and one count of misdemeanor failure to stop at a stop sign. Following a bench trial, the Circuit Court of Ray County found Hicks guilty and sentenced him to concurrent sentences of five years for driving while intoxicated, and five days for failure to stop at a stop sign. Hick appeals, alleging that the circuit court erred by reviewing a portion of the audio recording of the trial testimony prior to issuing its guilty verdict. We affirm.
On December 9, 2011, Hicks was the driver and sole occupant of a Ford Escape. City of Richmond Police Officer Jared Sartin observed Hicks failing to stop at a stop sign. Officer Sartin activated his emergency lights and pulled Hicks' vehicle over. Upon approaching the vehicle, Officer Sartin noticed that Hicks was " mumbling," that his eyes were bloodshot and watering, and that there was a strong odor of intoxicants coming from Hicks and the vehicle. Hicks denied that he had been drinking.
Officer Sartin ordered Hicks to exit his vehicle. As Hicks exited, he used his car to help him maintain balance, keeping his hand on the vehicle as he walked. Sartin asked Hicks to perform three field sobriety tests (the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test). Officer Sartin testified that Hicks failed all three tests. At that point, Officer Sartin arrested Hicks for DWI.
After Officer Sartin read Hicks Missouri's implied-consent law, Hicks refused to submit to a chemical breath test. Officer Sartin then read Hicks the Miranda  warning, and Hicks agreed to answer the officer's questions. He denied that he had been drinking, and denied that he had even been driving the vehicle.
A bench trial was held on March 25, 2013. At the conclusion of the evidence, that court stated that it would take a recess to permit the court to " look at the law and apply the evidence before me to that law and come back with a verdict." Following a recess which apparently lasted approximately 45 minutes, proceedings resumed on the record. The court then stated that
I have reviewed all the evidence. That included going back and re-listening to a couple of spots of the tape [recording of the trial testimony]. I had a little bit of difficulty just hearing. Not necessarily understanding what was being said, but the word of what -- what did they say at that particular point? I just listened to a little bit of the testimony.
The court then discussed its assessment of the evidence that had been presented, and found Hicks guilty of both charges. The court later sentenced Hicks to five years' imprisonment on the DWI charge, and a concurrent sentence of ...