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State v. Baker

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division

August 16, 2016

LESLIE M. BAKER, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable James F. Kanatzar, Judge.

          Before: Zel M. Fischer, Special Judge, Presiding, Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, and Gary D. Witt, Judge.

          Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge.

         Mr. Leslie M. Baker ("Baker") appeals his conviction of the class B felony of driving while intoxicated ("DWI"), chronic offender, following a bench trial on stipulated evidence in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri ("trial court"). Baker was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. Baker challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural Background[1]

         Stipulated Facts

         The trial court entered its judgment in reliance on the following stipulated evidence. On June 30, 2013, at 10:47 p.m., Officer Steven Emberton of the Blue Springs Police Department was dispatched to the intersection of Ashton Drive and Oxford Lane, Blue Springs, Jackson County, Missouri, in response to a report by a 9-1-1 caller as to a possible intoxicated driver passed out behind the wheel of a vehicle. This is a busy residential area in Blue Springs, Missouri, as evidenced by Officer Emberton's dashboard camera depicting thirty-six vehicles proceeding through the intersection during the span of Officer Emberton's thirty-two-minute interaction with Baker and his vehicle. Upon arrival at 10:52 p.m., Officer Emberton observed a white 1983 Chrysler Imperial with the license number YE8-V1W parked in the middle of the intersection with the driver's-side door open with the headlights and rear lights still on. Officer Emberton observed a person later identified as Baker, staggering away from the vehicle and into the front yard of 2316 Ashton Drive approximately twenty to twenty-five feet from the vehicle. Officer Emberton detained Baker, at which time he observed a strong, overpowering odor of intoxicants coming from Baker's person and his eyes to be bloodshot and watery. The officer also observed Baker's speech to be slurred and mumbling as Baker spoke to Officer Emberton. Officer Emberton also observed Baker's balance to be uncertain, swaying, staggering, stumbling, and falling down.

         Dispatch informed Officer Emberton that the vehicle was registered to Baker. Officer Emberton observed in plain view two open plastic and largely consumed plastic containers of McCormick whiskey in Baker's vehicle. One bottle was lying on the driver's-side floorboard, and the other was wedged between the driver's seat and the center console. The officer observed the keys to be in the ignition in the operating position. The engine was not running at that time. Baker's sandals were found lying on the driver's-side floorboard near the foot pedals.

         Officer Emberton made contact with the party who originally called 9-1-1 about Baker and his vehicle parked in the roadway. That person was identified as Nicholas Billingsley. Mr. Billingsley stated that he and his wife were on their way home when they observed Baker's vehicle in the middle of the intersection, and it was not moving. Mr. Billingsley stated that he waited a brief period of time before driving around the vehicle. He stated that he saw Baker leaned back in the driver's seat with his left arm hanging out the window. He told Officer Emberton that the driver was passed out. Mr. Billingsley told the officer that no one else was in the car when he passed the vehicle.

         Officer Emberton then requested that Baker submit to standard field sobriety tests. Baker stated that he would not consent to any of the field sobriety tests. At that time, Officer Emberton arrested Baker on suspicion of DWI. Officer Emberton transported Baker to the Blue Springs police station, read Baker Missouri's Implied Consent Law, and requested that Baker submit to a breathalyzer test, which Baker refused.

         Procedural Background

         The State charged Baker with one count of the class B felony of DWI, § 577.010, [2] and because he had previously been found guilty of four intoxication-related traffic offenses, he qualified as a chronic offender, § 577.023.1(2)(a). The case proceeded to a bench trial. In addition to the parties' joint stipulation of evidence, the trial court received into evidence without objection a certified copy of Baker's driving record, certified copies of Baker's four prior DWI convictions, a DVD of Officer Emberton's in-car dashboard camera, and Officer Emberton's written report of the incident. Baker did not present any evidence at trial; instead, he moved for a judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's case and at the close of all the evidence. The trial court took the case under advisement and thereafter issued its judgment, finding Baker guilty of DWI as a chronic alcohol offender. The trial court sentenced Baker to six years' imprisonment.

         Baker timely appealed.

         Standard of Review

         "In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in a court-tried criminal case, the same standard is applied as in a jury-tried case." State v. Varnell, 316 S.W.3d 510, 513 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010). "The appellate court's role is limited to determining whether the State presented sufficient evidence from which a trier of fact could have reasonably found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (citing State v. Johnson, 244 S.W.3d 144, 152 (Mo. banc 2008)). We accept as true all evidence and inferences favorable to the State and disregard all contrary evidence and inferences. Id. See also State v. ...

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