Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 12-F-0569. Honorable Wilson Rambo, Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT, By: Douglas Lee Harville, Counsel for Appellant.
JERRY L. JONES, District Attorney, HOLLY CHAMBERS JONES, Assistant District Attorney, Counsel for Appellee.
Before BROWN, CARAWAY and MOORE, JJ. BROWN, C.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part.
[49,708 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] MOORE, J.
The defendant, Timothy Wayne Hooter, age 49, pled guilty to operating a vehicle while intoxicated, fourth offense, a violation of La. R.S. 14:98. He was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment at hard labor with credit for time served, as well as credit for time in the Fresh Start Rehabilitation facility and a $12,000 fine. Hooter now appeals, urging that the trial court
imposed an excessive sentence. Because the statute of conviction specifically requires a $5,000 fine, we amend the sentence by reducing the fine to $5,000; in all other respects, we affirm the conviction and sentence.
Shortly after 9:00 p.m. on February 22, 2012, Monroe Police Department Officer Duane Cookson was traveling southbound on South Grand Street behind a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Cookson observed that the Eclipse's registration had expired in 2006 and the license plate belonged to another vehicle, a 1992 Ford. Traversing 10 city blocks, Officer Cookson observed the vehicle cross the white fog line several times and cross the yellow " no passing line" several times. Officer Cookson activated his emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop. The driver continued eight more blocks before he finally pulled over.
Officer Cookson identified the driver, Timothy W. Hooter, from his Louisiana identification card. He noted in his incident report that Hooter had red, watery eyes, slurred speech, and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath. He also noted that Hooter fumbled with his wallet when trying to retrieve his ID, and he observed Hooter sway as he stood [49,708 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] outside of his vehicle and lean onto his car.
Hooter possessed no paperwork or documentation for the vehicle. He claimed that he " bought the car from Justin and was waiting for the title in order to register the vehicle." Officer Cookson Mirandized Hooter and placed him into his police vehicle.
Officer Cookson had Hooter's vehicle removed. An inventory search uncovered a 24-ounce Styrofoam cup with lid and straw on the floorboard behind the passenger seat that contained ice and a brown, caramel-colored liquid that had an odor of an alcoholic beverage.
Back at the Monroe Police Department, Cookson conducted the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests with Hooter. Hooter exhibited all eight signs of impairment on the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test and the Vertical Nystagmus Test. Hooter refused to perform the One-Leg Stand Test, the Walk and Turn Test, and he refused to submit a breath sample. Officer Cookson obtained a search warrant approved by Judge Wilson Rambo. Hooter was transported to St. Francis Medical Center where his blood was drawn. Hooter was determined to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.19--more than twice the legal limit of 0.08. La. R.S. 14:98 and R.S. 32:662.
Hooter was booked into the Ouachita Correctional Center and charged by bill of information with the following: (1) driving while intoxicated, fifth offense; (2) improper lane usage; (3) switched license plate; (4) improper equipment; (5) driving under revocation or suspension; (6) operating an unsafe vehicle; (7) possession of alcoholic beverages in [49,708 La.App. 2 Cir. 3] motor vehicles; and (8) operating a vehicle without liability insurance. Additionally, Hooter was charged with refusal to submit to a chemical test and public intimidation.
On April 2, 2012, after waiver of formal arraignment, Hooter entered a plea of not guilty. Subsequently, on October 9, 2013, pursuant to a plea agreement, Hooter entered a plea of guilty to driving while intoxicated, fourth ...