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Alexander v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 11, 2019

Octavius D. Alexander, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Tippecanoe Circuit Court, The Honorable Sean Persin, Judge, Trial Court Cause No. 79C01-1707-F5-80

          Attorney for Appellant Brian A. Karle Ball Eggleston, PC Lafayette, Indiana.

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Courtney Staton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Octavius D. Alexander appeals his conviction of Level 5 felony operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.08 or more and with a previous conviction for operating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury.[1] He raises two issues on appeal, which we restate as whether the traffic stop of Alexander violated either the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution or Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution. We affirm.[2]

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On May 19, 2017, at 2:00 a.m., Officer Grant Leroux was on patrol in Lafayette, Indiana. Officer Leroux began following Alexander's vehicle in the normal course of traffic near the intersection of Earl Avenue and Kossuth Street. Officer Leroux followed Alexander for about a mile before observing Alexander's vehicle come to a complete stop at the intersection of Kossuth Street and Main Street. After stopping, Alexander signaled a right turn and turned once the stoplight turned green. Officer Leroux then initiated a traffic stop because Alexander did not signal his turn far enough in advance of the intersection.

         [¶3] While speaking with Alexander, Officer Leroux smelled alcohol on his breath and called Officer Matthew Meeks for assistance. When Officer Meeks arrived, he took over investigating whether Alexander was operating while intoxicated. While Officer Meeks was investigating, Officer Leroux conducted a canine sniff of the vehicle, and the canine did not detect the presence of any narcotics.

         [¶4] Officer Meeks asked Alexander if he had been drinking, and Alexander admitted having a few drinks. Alexander's speech was slurred, his eyes were bloodshot, and his breath smelled of alcohol. Officer Meeks administered three field sobriety tests. Alexander failed the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and the one-legged stand test but passed the walk and turn test. Alexander consented to a chemical test, and Officer Meeks transported him to a hospital where a nurse drew his blood. The blood draw revealed Alexander's blood alcohol concentration to be 0.15.

         [¶5] The State charged Alexander with Level 5 felony operating while intoxicated because he had a previous conviction for operating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury in 2007. [3] The State also charged him with operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to .15 or more as a Class A misdemeanor, [4] operating a vehicle while intoxicated as a Class C misdemeanor, [5] operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in one's body as a Class C misdemeanor, [6] and Level 5 felony operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in one's body.[7]

         [¶6] On April 19, 2018, Alexander filed a motion to suppress all observations made by the arresting officers, the statements made by Alexander after the stop, and Alexander's blood alcohol content. In support, Alexander alleged Officer Leroux did not have reasonable suspicion of a crime to initiate the traffic stop and the stop was unreasonable. The trial court held a hearing on June 5, 2018, and denied Alexander's motion.

         [¶7] The court held a bench trial on November 27, 2018, and convicted Alexander of operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.08 or more when the defendant has a prior conviction of operating while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury. [8] Alexander raised a continuing objection at trial based on the arguments presented in his motion to suppress. On January 11, 2019, the court imposed a four-year sentence, with one year executed in the Indiana Department of Correction, two years to be served on community corrections, and one year suspended to probation.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶8] Although Alexander filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the traffic stop, his case proceeded to trial and he renewed his objection at trial. Thus, his appeal stems from the admission at trial of the evidence obtained during the traffic stop. See Guilmette v. State, 14 N.E.3d 38, 40 (Ind. 2014). The trial court has broad discretion in ruling on the admission of evidence, and we review for an abuse of discretion. Id. "We will reverse a trial court's decision to admit evidence only if the decision was clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances and the error affects the defendant's substantial rights." Wright v. State, 108 N.E.3d 307, 313 (Ind. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). ...


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