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State v. Stufflebean

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

April 25, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
JASON STUFFLEBEAN, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Warren County 15BB-CR00391-01 Honorable Michael S. Wright

          Gary M. Gaertner, Jr, Judge.

         Introduction

         Jason Stufflebean (Defendant) appeals the judgment entered upon his conviction for felony driving while revoked or suspended. This case turns on how much evidence the State must produce in order to prove that a defendant is criminally negligent with respect to knowledge that the State had revoked or suspended his or her driving privileges. While criminal negligence is a very low standard, this standard still requires the State to produce some evidence of a defendant's mental state to convict a defendant of driving while revoked or suspended. Because the State failed to produce sufficient evidence of Defendant's mental state to convict Defendant, we must reverse.

         Background

         On October 29, 2014, at about 4:00 p.m., Officer Robby Ryan (Officer Ryan) was driving in a parking lot, where he observed Defendant driving a car. Officer Ryan was not on duty at the time, but he recognized Defendant and believed Defendant's driver's license was suspended. Officer Ryan called the Warren County Police Dispatch and asked them to check the license plate number on the vehicle Defendant was driving and to confirm Defendant's driving status. The Warren County Police Dispatcher confirmed that Defendant's license was suspended. Because Officer Ryan was off-duty at that time, he called and informed another officer of what he had observed rather than making a traffic stop.

         The State charged Defendant as a prior and persistent offender with one count of driving while revoked or suspended, a class D felony based on Defendant's prior convictions for driving while revoked or suspended. At trial, the State presented Officer Ryan's testimony as well as a certified copy of Defendant's driving record from the Department of Revenue (State's Exhibit 15), showing two separate "Child Support Enforcement Suspensions." These entries became effective on October 4, 2014, and October 5, 2014, respectively, and the driving record showed both suspensions were still active on October 29, 2014, when Officer Ryan observed Defendant driving.

         The jury found Defendant guilty of driving while revoked or suspended, and the trial court sentenced Defendant to a term of three years' imprisonment. This appeal follows.

         Discussion

         Defendant's sole point on appeal is that the trial court erred in entering judgment against him because the evidence was insufficient from which the jury could find that he acted with criminal negligence with respect to the knowledge of the fact that the Department of Revenue had suspended his driving privileges. We agree.

         Our review of challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence requires us to determine "whether, in light of the evidence most favorable to the State, any rational fact-finder could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Nash, 339 S.W.3d 500, 509 (Mo. banc 2011) (quoting State v. Batemam 318 S.W.3d 681, 687 (Mo. banc 2010)) (internal quotations omitted). We do not re-weigh the evidence, but "give[] great deference to the trier of fact." Nash, 339 S.W.3d at 509 (quoting State v. Chanev, 967 S.W.2d 47, 52 (Mo. banc 1998)). At the same time, we "may not supply missing evidence, or give the State the benefit of unreasonable, speculative or forced inferences." State v. Whalen. 49 S.W.3d 181, 184 (Mo. banc 2001) (internal quotation and alteration omitted).

         Here, Section 302.321.1, RSMo. (Supp. 2011), required the jury to find that Defendant "act[ed] with criminal negligence with respect to knowledge of the fact that [his] driving privilege ha[d] been cancelled, suspended, or revoked." Section 562.016.5, RSMo. (2000) states the following:

A person "acts with criminal negligence" . . . when he or she fails to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that circumstances exist or a result will follow, and such failure constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation.

         Defendant argues that the only evidence of his suspension in this case was his driving record, that there was no evidence that he had any knowledge that his driving privileges had been suspended by the Children's Division, and that the State failed to produce evidence that he was ...


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