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State v. Steele

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

February 10, 2015

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
JAMES E. STEELE, JR., Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lewis County. 12AR-CR00636-02. Honorable Karl A. DeMarce.

Emmett D. Queener, Columbia, MO, for appellant.

Chris Koster, Evan J. Buchheim, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent.

Gary M. Gaertner Jr., Judge. Kurt S. Odenwald, P. J., concurs. Robert G. Dowd, Jr., J., concurs.

OPINION

Page 401

Gary M. Gaertner Jr.

Introduction

James E. Steele, Jr. (Defendant) appeals the judgment entered upon his conviction

Page 402

after a jury found him guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Defendant argues that the trial court erred in admitting statements he made during his initial traffic stop as evidence. Defendant contends that the officer obtained his statements in violation of his constitutional rights because the officer had not yet advised Defendant of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), We affirm.

Background

The evidence, in the light most favorable to the denial of the motion to suppress and the verdict, showed the following.[1] On September 1, 2012, Sergeant Thomas Rohn (Sergeant Rohn) with the Missouri State Highway Patroi was traveling behind a vehicle on Missouri Highway 11, and he saw that vehicle cross the center line of the highway four times. Sergeant Rohn activated his emergency lights. The vehicle slowed, turned left onto a county road, and came to a stop.

Sergeant Rohn approached the driver, later identified as Defendant, Sergeant Rohn detected a very strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on Defendant's person, and he asked for Defendant's identification. Sergeant Rohn noticed that Defendant was fumbling through his wallet and had a hard time pulling out his identification. Sergeant Rohn asked Defendant to exit his vehicle. Defendant picked up a soda cup that was in his vehicle's console and began drinking very hard from the straw. Sergeant Rohn asked Defendant to stop, and Defendant initially did not comply. That was significant to Sergeant Rohn because he had already detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage, and he believed Defendant might be trying to mask the odor on his breath by drinking soda.

Defendant eventually exited his vehicle and complied with Sergeant Rohn's request to come and sit in the police vehicle. Sergeant Rohn testified that for his own safety and the safety of the driver, he regularly asks drivers to come sit in his vehicle during a traffic stop. As Defendant was walking to the police vehicle, Sergeant Rohn observed him to be swaying back and forth and unsteady on his feet. Sergeant Rohn asked Defendant to sit in the passenger seat of the police vehicle. Defendant did so, but he left his right foot outside the vehicle and left the door open. Sergeant Rohn sat in the driver's seat of the police vehicle.

Less than five minutes after Defendant got into the police vehicle, Sergeant Rohn asked Defendant whether Defendant had had anything to drink. Defendant responded that he had drunk seven or eight beers. Defendant's speech was slurred and he was difficult to understand. Sergeant Rohn asked Defendant if he would submit to a field sobriety test. Defendant's eyes were " glossy" and he just stared at Sergeant Rohn. Sergeant Rohn asked again, and Defendant refused. Sergeant Rohn also asked whether Defendant would submit to a preliminary breath test, and Defendant refused. Sergeant Rohn asked Defendant to close the passenger door, and Defendant complied. Defendant then said, " I guess I'm going to jail." At that point, Sergeant ...


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