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State v. Patrick

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

October 18, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
DIANE ELLEN PATRICK Appellant

         Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 329928 Honorable Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge

          LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Carey J. Ellis, III Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney MEKISHA S. CREAL ERICA JEFFERSON Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before WILLIAMS, DREW, and COX, JJ.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         The 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.

         FACTS

         The 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 presentence investigation.

         At the 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.

         Prior 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.

         The 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.

         Based 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.

         DISCUSSION

         The defendant contends the trial court erred in imposing an excessive sentence. Defendant argues she is entitled to a less harsh sentence because she accepted ...


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