from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 329928 Honorable Brady D.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel
E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney MEKISHA S. CREAL ERICA
JEFFERSON Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee
WILLIAMS, DREW, and COX, JJ.
defendant, Diane Ellen Patrick, was charged by bill of
information with vehicular homicide, a violation of La. R.S.
14:32.1. The defendant pled guilty as charged without an
agreement as to sentencing. The defendant was sentenced to
pay a $3, 000 fine and serve 22 years' imprisonment at
hard labor. Defendant appeals her sentence as excessive. For
the following reasons, we vacate the illegally lenient
sentence and remand for resentencing.
record shows that on December 6, 2014, the defendant was
driving a pickup truck north on Buncombe Road in Shreveport,
Louisiana, when her vehicle left the roadway and struck
Se'Destini Fields, a 23-year-old woman who was canvassing
the neighborhood on foot for the Democratic Party with her
fiancé. Fields was transported to University Health
System Hospital where she ultimately passed away as a result
of her injuries. Defendant was taken by the police from the
scene to University Health, where she voluntarily submitted a
blood sample for toxicological analysis. The results of the
blood test revealed that defendant was under the influence of
benzodiazepines, cannabinoids and opiates at the time the
sample was taken. After being advised of her rights under
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16
L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), defendant told police she had taken three
Xanax pills, two or three hydrocodone pills and had smoked
marijuana the night before the accident. Defendant was
arrested and charged with vehicular homicide. Defendant pled
guilty as charged and the district court ordered a
sentencing hearing, the defendant's sons, Bradley Stuckey
and Dustin Stuckey, testified on their mother's behalf.
Both men stated that their mother was very apologetic for her
actions. Dustin Stuckey stated that he believed that his
mother's drug addiction started after she was prescribed
pain medications following an accident. Defendant addressed
the trial court and apologized to the victim's family.
to imposing sentence, the trial court noted its review and
consideration of the relevant sentencing factors set forth in
La. C.Cr.P. art. 894.1, and the information provided in the
presentence investigation report. The trial court stated that
it had also reviewed all of the investigative reports, as
well as letters submitted by the victim's family members
and friends. The trial court determined that the maximum
sentence was not warranted because the defendant had accepted
responsibility for her actions and spared the victim's
family the anguish of a trial. However, the trial court also
concluded that defendant should have known that her conduct
placed the lives of innocent people at risk, especially given
her level of impairment, and that she had utilized a
dangerous weapon, her vehicle, during the commission of the
crime. The trial court recognized that defendant's crime
resulted in a permanent loss to the victim and her family.
defendant's criminal history was especially relevant to
the trial court's consideration of the appropriate
sentence because it demonstrated a "history over the
past-most seriously over the past six years or so of drug
abuse and driving under the influence of a controlled
dangerous substance[.]" In particular, the trial court
noted that defendant had pled guilty to driving while
intoxicated, first offense, in 2013 and driving while
intoxicated, second offense, in 2014. The trial court
explained that this history shows that defendant was aware
that she needed to seek treatment for her addiction, but
refused to do so before her conduct resulted in the loss of
life. Defendant's cooperation with police and her
decision to take responsibility for her actions were
considered mitigating factors by the trial court.
upon the aforementioned factors, the trial court sentenced
defendant to pay a $3, 000 fine and serve 22 years'
imprisonment at hard labor. Defendant was also ordered to pay
$5, 000 in restitution to the victim's family to cover
funeral expenses. The trial court specifically noted that it
was not designating the defendant's offense as a crime of
violence. The defendant's motion for reconsideration of
sentence was denied. This appeal followed.
defendant contends the trial court erred in imposing an
excessive sentence. Defendant argues she is entitled to a
less harsh sentence because she accepted ...