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State v. Beck

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

April 1, 2014

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JOANNA LEIGH BECK

Heard in the Court of Appeals November 20, 2013.

Mecklenburg County. No. 09 CRS 259652.

Roy Cooper, Attorney General, by Joseph L. Hyde, Assistant Attorney General, for the State.

Rudolf Widenhouse & Fialko, by M. Gordon Widenhouse, Jr., for defendant-appellant.

DAVIS, Judge. Judges ELMORE and McCULLOUGH concur.

OPINION

Page 81

DAVIS, Judge.

Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 26 November 2012 by Judge Christopher W. Bragg in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 20 November 2013

Joanna Leigh Beck (" Defendant" ) appeals from a judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding her guilty of driving while impaired. Defendant's sole argument on appeal is that the trial court erred in denying her request for a special jury instruction regarding the jury's ability to determine the weight to be accorded to the results of a chemical analysis. After careful review, we conclude that Defendant received a fair trial free from error.

Factual Background

Defendant was arrested on 12 December 2009 at a checkpoint and charged with driving while impaired. Defendant was convicted in Mecklenburg County District Court, and she appealed to the superior court for a trial de novo.

At trial, the State's evidence tended to show the following: On 12 December 2009, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Officer Matthew Pressley (" Officer Pressley" ) of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department was assisting with an impaired driving checkpoint on Park Road near Archdale Drive. Officer Pressley approached Defendant's vehicle and asked for her license. As he spoke to Defendant, he observed that her eyes were " glossy and bloodshot" and that there was " a strong odor of alcoholic beverage about her breath." Officer Pressley asked Defendant if she had been drinking that evening, and she responded that she had consumed two mixed vodka drinks. Officer Pressley then asked Defendant to step out of her vehicle.

Officer Pressley administered three field sobriety tests: (1) the horizontal gaze nystagmus test; (2) the walk-and-turn test; and (3) the one-leg stand test. Based on Defendant's performance on these three tests, Officer Pressley believed that she was impaired. He arrested Defendant and then administered a " breath test," using the Intoxilyzer EC/IR II machine. The machine registered that Defendant's breath sample had an alcohol concentration of .10.

Defendant presented evidence at trial, including expert testimony from Julian Douglas Scott (" Scott" ), who was accepted by the trial court as an expert witness in the detection of impaired driving and in the administration of standardized field sobriety tests. Scott disagreed with several of Officer Pressley's conclusions regarding how many signs of impairment could be gleaned from Defendant's performance on the tests Officer Pressley had administered. Scott also opined that Officer ...


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