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State v. Kelpe

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

January 15, 2020

STATE OF LOUISIANA Applicant
v.
ZEKE T. KELPE Respondent

          On Application for Writs from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 17-M2554 Honorable Frederic C. Amman, III, Judge

          ROBERT S. TEW District Attorney Counsel for Applicant

          ROBERT B. STALEY Assistant District Attorney

          STEPHEN A. JEFFERSON Counsel for Respondent

          Before WILLIAMS, McCALLUM, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          WILLIAMS, C.J.

         The defendant, Zeke T. Kelpe, was charged by bill of information with driving while intoxicated ("DWI"), first offense, in violation of La. R.S. 14:98(A)(1). The trial court granted the defendant's pretrial motion to suppress evidence. The State of Louisiana sought supervisory review of that ruling; this Court granted the state's writ application to the appellate docket. For the following reasons, we hereby reverse the trial court's ruling granting the defendant's motion to suppress, deny the motion and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS

         On September 16, 2017, at approximately 1:30 a.m., Louisiana State Trooper Dakota DeMoss observed the driver of a vehicle execute a left turn from North 2nd Street onto Louisville Avenue in Monroe, Louisiana. According to Trooper DeMoss, the driver, later identified as the defendant, Zeke Talbert Kelpe, executed the left turn and immediately traversed into the right lane, in violation of La. R.S. 32:101(A)(2).

         Trooper DeMoss conducted a traffic stop and ordered the defendant to exit his vehicle. Trooper DeMoss observed that the defendant was "moving very slow and acting lethargic" as he exited the vehicle. He also noticed that the defendant's eyes were "bloodshot red," and he detected a "strong odor associated with an alcoholic beverage emitting from his person." The state trooper placed the defendant under arrest and transported him to the Ouachita Correctional Center. Thereafter, the defendant submitted a breath sample registering a blood alcohol concentration of .176 percent.

         The defendant was charged by bill of information with DWI, first offense, in violation of La. R.S. 14:98(A)(1), and improper turn, in violation of LA. R.S. 32:101(A)(2).[1] On September 6, 2018, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized, i.e., the results of his blood alcohol test. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the motion to suppress. By order dated June 17, 2019, this Court granted the state's application for supervisory writs.

         DISCUSSION

         The state contends the trial court erred in granting the defendant's motion to suppress. The state argues that Trooper DeMoss acted on the basis of a presumptively valid statute and had reasonable cause to stop and interrogate the defendant, who was suspected of committing a traffic violation.

         In response, the defendant argues that the trial court's ruling granting the motion to suppress was proper for the following reasons: (1) the statute is vague and ambiguous; (2) the statute does not define how far and how long a motorist must drive in the right lane of the center line before changing lanes; (3) there were no other vehicles in the outside lane at the time of the alleged traffic violation; (4) it was not "practicable" to drive very far in the inside lane; and (5) Trooper DeMoss bypassed ...


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