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State v. Clark

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Special Division

August 16, 2016

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
SIDNEY L. CLARK III, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Jack R. Grate, Judge.

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

          MARK D. PFEIFFER, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Mr. Sidney L. Clark III ("Clark") was convicted of the class C felony of driving while intoxicated ("DWI") as an aggravated offender and of operating a motor vehicle without a valid license following a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri ("trial court"). Clark appeals, challenging the admission and the sufficiency of the evidence to support his DWI conviction as an aggravated offender. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         On October 24, 2011, at 8:26 p.m., Missouri State Trooper Chadwick Kutzner observed a vehicle approaching his vehicle from behind and traveling at a high rate a speed. Trooper Kutzner activated his rear radar unit and determined the vehicle's speed to be 90 miles per hour in a 65 miles-per-hour zone. Once the vehicle passed Trooper Kutzner, he initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle, a red Ford Taurus operated by Clark. The traffic stop yielded a DWI citation, the underlying facts and conviction of which Clark does not contest.

         The State charged Clark with the class C felony of DWI, § 577.010, [2] as an aggravated offender, § 577.023.1(1)(a), because the State contended that he had previously been found guilty of three intoxication-related traffic offenses.

         At the bench trial, Clark did not contest that one of his prior intoxication-related traffic offenses-a 2008 DWI conviction from Sweet Springs, Missouri-could properly be considered by the trial court for "aggravated offender" evidentiary purposes. And, while Clark did not object to admission of exhibits reflecting his DWI convictions from Grandview, Missouri, and Parkville, Missouri, he did contest that the trial court could consider either of those convictions for "aggravated offender" evidentiary purposes. Clark also specifically objected to certain portions of the State's exhibits that contained within them alleged testimonial hearsay of law enforcement officers relating to the factual basis for Clark's convictions in the Grandview and Parkville DWI convictions. Finally, Clark offered into evidence the Grandview and Parkville DWI ordinances under which he was convicted.[3]

         The trial court admitted all of the evidence submitted by the State and Clark at trial, overruled Clark's motions for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's case and at the close of all the evidence, found Clark guilty of the aggravated offender DWI charge, and sentenced him to four years' imprisonment with suspended execution of sentence and three years' probation.

         Clark timely appealed.

         Multifarious Point Relied On

         Clark asserts three grounds for error in one point relied on. Clark claims evidentiary admission error, Confrontation Clause violations, and also makes a sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge. Our review of each of these claims is guided by a different standard of review: abuse of discretion, [4] de novo, [5] and substantial evidence, [6] respectively. Hence, Clark's point relied on is multifarious and illustrates the reason why appellate briefing rules prohibit it. "Multiple claims of error in one point relied on render the point multifarious and violate Rule 84.04, made applicable to briefs in criminal appeals by Rule 30.06(c)." State v. Robinson, 454 S.W.3d 428, 437 n.6 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015). Generally, multifarious points preserve nothing for appellate review and are subject to dismissal. Id. However, because it is our preference to decide cases on the merits where we are able to decipher the argument being made by the appellant without becoming an advocate for the appellant, we are vested with the discretion to decline to dismiss the appeal and, instead, to decide the legal issue we believe is being presented. We are electing to exercise our discretion to do just that in this case. We caution appellant's counsel, however, that we may not exercise our discretion as liberally in the future and remind counsel that the dictates of the appellate briefing rules are mandatory.

         Analysis

         At issue, both below and on appeal, is Clark's challenge to the trial court's ability to consider the Grandview and Parkville DWI convictions for "aggravated offender" evidentiary purposes. Clark does not contest that the State properly adduced evidence and proved that Clark's criminal history included these two DWI convictions from Grandview and Parkville. His complaint, however, is that: (1) the officers' statements in the respective Alcohol Influence Reports (AIR) about the factual basis for the DWI convictions in the Grandview and Parkville DWI convictions constitute inadmissible hearsay and (2) violate Clark's Confrontation Clause rights; and, finally, (3) without the officers' testimonial hearsay observations contained within the Grandview AIR and Parkville AIR, there was insufficient admissible evidence in the record to support Clark's enhanced DWI conviction.

         What Clark conveniently ignores in his appellate briefing is Clark's non-hearsay admissions contained within the State's exhibits relating to his Grandview and Parkville DWI convictions, which is separate and apart from any hearsay complaints about the officers' statements.

         Aggravated ...


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