in the Court of Appeals 16 May 2017.
by defendant from judgments entered 28 July 2016 by Judge
Eric C. Morgan in Stokes County Superior Court Nos. 15 CRS
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Ronald D. Williams, II, for the State.
& Cooke, by James R. Parish, for defendant-appellant.
Lee Sawyers ("defendant") appeals from judgments
entered upon jury verdicts finding him guilty of driving
while impaired, driving while license revoked, reckless
driving, possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana, and
possession of marijuana paraphernalia. After careful review,
we conclude that defendant received a fair trial, free from
approximately 5:30 p.m. on 11 February 2015, defendant and
his girlfriend, Martha Goff ("Goff"), were driving
southbound on Old Highway 52 in King, North Carolina. They
were traveling at a high rate of speed in Goff's Dodge
Charger, and the driver lost control of the car through a
sharp curve. After swerving several times, the car spun off
the road, hit a tree, and landed in a ditch. Volunteer
firefighter William Tedder ("Tedder") heard the
"horrendous" crash from a nearby cemetery where he
was working, and he immediately reported to the scene.
Several other drivers who witnessed the accident also pulled
over, provided assistance, and called law enforcement.
five minutes after defendant's car landed in a ditch,
Sergeant Kevin Crane ("Sergeant Crane") of the King
Police Department arrived. Sergeant Crane discovered that the
Charger was severely damaged: the passenger's side door
would not open, and one of the front wheels was missing.
Defendant, seated in the driver's seat, appeared very
fidgety and nervous while speaking with Tedder. Goff was
seated in the passenger's seat. Sergeant Crane detected
an odor of alcohol emanating from the vehicle.
Medical Services arrived and examined defendant and Goff to
determine whether they sustained injuries. Meanwhile,
Sergeant Crane investigated the vehicle. Goff's purse was
on the passenger's side floorboard, and some of its
contents had scattered on the floor during the crash.
Sergeant Crane discovered a brass pipe laying on the
driver's side floorboard, near the base of the seat. When
he inspected the pipe, he detected an odor of marijuana on
it. Based on his training and experience, Sergeant Crane
concluded that the brass pipe was drug paraphernalia.
and Goff were seated in the ambulance when Trooper Kevin
Johnson ("Trooper Johnson") of the North Carolina
Highway Patrol arrived at approximately 5:46 p.m. Sergeant
Crane gave the brass pipe to Trooper Johnson, and Tedder
advised that defendant had been behind the wheel when Tedder
first arrived to the scene. After investigating the Charger,
Trooper Johnson approached the ambulance to interview
defendant and Goff.
first, defendant denied driving, but upon further
questioning, he admitted that he was the driver. However,
defendant denied that he had been drinking prior to the
accident. When Trooper Johnson asked defendant to produce his
driver's license, defendant provided an identification
card and admitted that his license was revoked. Trooper
Johnson subsequently conducted a pat-down search of defendant
and discovered a pill bottle containing a small amount of
marijuana in his right front pocket.
Johnson detected a strong odor of alcohol on defendant's
breath and noticed that defendant's eyes were red and
glassy, and his speech was slurred. Based on these
indicators, Trooper Johnson opined that defendant was
appreciably impaired. Trooper Johnson began administering a
field sobriety test, but defendant admitted that he was
intoxicated and refused to cooperate. Consequently, Trooper
Johnson arrested defendant for driving while impaired.
January 2016, defendant was indicted by a grand jury in
Stokes County Superior Court for habitual impaired driving;
driving while license revoked; reckless driving; possession
of up to one-half ounce of marijuana; and possession of
marijuana paraphernalia. A jury trial commenced on 25 July
2016. At the close of the State's evidence, defendant
moved to dismiss all charges for insufficient evidence.
Defendant argued that in order to satisfy the driving element
of these offenses, the State must prove that the vehicle was
actually "moving and running, " and here, the
evidence merely showed that the defendant was "sitting
in the passenger seat of a wrecked car[.]" After
allowing the State to respond, the trial court denied
defendant's motion. ...