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State v. Flores

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 10, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA Appellee
v.
JOHN PAUL FLORES Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 342, 045 Honorable Brady D. O'Callaghan, Judge

          WHITLEY R. GRAVES Counsel for Appellant

          JAMES E. STEWART, SR. District Attorney REBECCA A. EDWARDS SENAE D. HALL KODIE K. SMITH Assistant District Attorneys Counsel for Appellee

          Before PITMAN, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          STEPHENS, J.

         This criminal appeal by John Paul Flores arises from the First Judicial District Court, Parish of Caddo, State of Louisiana. Flores was convicted by a unanimous jury of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, fourth offense, in violation of La. R.S. 14:98 and 14:98.4. He was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment at hard labor, two years to be served without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, and a $5, 000.00 fine. No motion to reconsider sentence was filed. On appeal, Flores challenges his sentence and conviction. For the following reasons, we affirm Flores's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS

         On the evening of June 24, 2016, officers with Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office, in response to a welfare call, approached John Paul Flores at Elsie's Auto & Truck Plaza ("Elsie's") in Shreveport, Louisiana. Flores was asleep in the driver's seat of a truck parked at the gas pumps in front of the store. After waking Flores and having him step out of the vehicle, officers located the keys on the center console of the vehicle and determined that Flores was at Elsie's alone. Flores was placed under arrest for suspected operation of a vehicle while intoxicated and subsequently charged by bill of information with operating a vehicle, fourth or subsequent offense, in violation of La. R.S. 14:98 and 14:98.4.

         A six-person jury trial commenced on February 14, 2018, wherein seven witnesses testified. The state and the defense stipulated to Flores's three prior convictions of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.[1] After closing arguments, the jury retired to deliberate without a copy of the jury instructions. The jury later wrote a note to the court which read, "Does the definition, by law, of 'control of a vehicle' include their sitting in driver's side with access to keys of vehicle?" The court declined to answer the jury's question, reasoning that the question was too specific and would border too closely on a comment on the evidence. Instead, the trial court elected to reread the relevant part of the original charge to the jury. After further deliberation, the jury unanimously found Flores guilty as charged. Following a presentence investigation, Flores was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, two years to be served without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence, and a $5, 000.00 fine. No motion to reconsider sentence was filed. This appeal by Flores ensued.

         DISCUSSION

         On appeal, Flores asserts that (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in failing to properly instruct the jury; and, (3) the trial court erred in imposing an excessive sentence.

         Trial Testimony

         At trial, Detective Jeremy Edwards of the Caddo Parish Sherriff's Office testified that he was working as a patrol officer on the evening of June 24, 2016, when he was dispatched to Elsie's truck stop at 7101 Highway One in Caddo Parish concerning someone asleep in a truck at the gas pumps. Upon arrival at Elsie's, Det. Edwards made contact with Flores, who was asleep in the front driver side of a vehicle. No one else was in the vehicle. Det. Edwards knocked on the window several times to get Flores's attention. Det. Edwards stated he glanced inside the vehicle when Flores first exited but did not remember seeing any alcoholic beverages. He further testified that Flores exhibited bloodshot eyes, unsteady feet, and an alcoholic odor coming from his person. Det. Edwards attempted to conduct a field sobriety test, which Flores refused. Det. Edwards's contact with Flores at Elsie's was recorded with the mobile video surveillance device ("MVS") in his patrol car, which records everything in front of his vehicle as well as conversations. The DVD of the recording from Det. Edwards's MVS was introduced and played for the jury. Det. Edwards stated that he could not recall if Flores's vehicle was running when he approached it, but testified on cross-examination while viewing the MVS footage that as Flores exited the vehicle, he did not hear a beeping or any sound to indicate the keys were in the ignition. Det. Edwards placed a call to Flores's wife, Cynthia Flores, then transported Flores to Caddo Correctional Center ("CCC") for a chemical breathalyzer test. Det. Edwards testified that on the way to CCC, Flores was falling asleep. The interaction in the Intoxilyzer room at CCC was recorded with a camera system in the room, and the footage was introduced and played for the jury. Flores refused to sign the chemical rights form and refused to submit to the test.

         Deputy James Norwood of the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office testified that he is employed in the patrol division and was so employed on the evening of June 24, 2016. He testified that he was dispatched to Elsie's to investigate a "subject passed out in his vehicle at the gas pump." Dep. Norwood testified that he had made over 400 DWI arrests and that he looks for indications of bloodshot eyes, swaying while standing, and an alcoholic odor coming from one's person. Dep. Norwood observed Flores swaying while standing up, and that Flores's eyes were bloodshot. He described Flores's demeanor as being "kind of a jerk." Dep. Norwood was asked by Det. Edwards to check the store for Flores's wife because Flores said his wife drove him to Elsie's. Dep. Norwood checked the truck stop and the casino but could not find Flores's wife. He also testified that he did not recall seeing any alcoholic beverages inside the vehicle when he glanced inside.

         Supervisor William Tuggle of the Louisiana Department of Probation and Parole identified bills of information for docket numbers 218, 487 (driving while intoxicated, third offense), and 234, 985 (driving while intoxicated, fourth offense). He testified that his office supervised Flores in both of those docket numbers and stated that supervision in docket number 218, 487 began on May 31, 2003, and ended on ...


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