Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Kathryn A. Sticklen, District Judge; Hon. L. Kevin Swain, Magistrate.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walters, Judge Pro Tem
Appellate decision by district court affirming magistrate's judgment of conviction for DUI, reversed.
Geirrod Detloph Stark was convicted of driving under the influence of a drug or intoxicating substance. Stark appeals, and asserts that the State did not present sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
A law enforcement officer observed Stark make an illegal right-hand turn, briefly drive the wrong way on a one-way street, and then pull into a gas station parking lot, at which point the officer initiated a traffic stop. When the officer approached Stark's vehicle, Stark cursed at the officer and told him to "quit harassing him." Stark's speech was slurred, he kept his head down, and he refused to look at the officer even when requested to do so. The officer ordered Stark out of the vehicle and to sit on the curb. The officer observed that Stark "shrunk over" as he sat on the curb, that his head drooped and bobbed as the officer attempted to question him, that his pupils were "pinpointed," and that he appeared to be having difficulty keeping his eyes open, as if he were falling asleep. The officer proceeded to conduct three field sobriety tests including a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a walk-and-turn test, and a one-legged balance test. The officer observed nystagmus in Stark's eyes and Stark performed poorly on the other tests.
Stark was arrested and taken into custody, where he submitted to a breath-alcohol test. The breath test did not detect any alcohol in Stark's breath. A second officer who was trained as a "drug recognition expert" attempted to interview Stark in an effort to determine whether Stark was under the influence of drugs, but discontinued his attempts when Stark told him to "f--k off." Stark did, however, submit to a blood draw. A subsequent toxicology examination indicated the presence of Carboxy-THC in Stark's blood.
Stark was charged with driving under the influence of drugs or an intoxicating substance, Idaho Code section 18-8004(a)(1), and tried before a magistrate judge. At trial, the evidence presented by the State consisted exclusively of the testimony from the arresting officer, an audio recording of the stop, and the toxicology report, which was admitted by stipulation. Testifying in his own defense, Stark admitted that he occasionally used marijuana but testified that he was not under the influence of marijuana or other drugs when he was stopped by the officer. He testified that he had difficulty with the field sobriety tests because he was dehydrated, hot, hungry, and agitated as a result of the traffic stop. Stark also testified that he suffered from various physical and mental conditions including a brain aneurysm, paranoid schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, for which he was receiving full disability benefits from the military. He testified that five days before his arrest, he had been released from an eight-week hospital stay, and that following his arrest, he was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital where he was held until trial, more than three months later.
After the parties presented their closing arguments, the magistrate stated:
[T]here is virtually no question in my mind that Mr. Stark was impaired, that he was under the influence of something. And the question becomes then, what? And my view of the evidence in this case is that although certainly there is a question, I'm satisfied that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the impairment was due to the ingestion of drugs.
Stark was convicted of driving under the influence of a drug or intoxicating substance. In an appeal to the district court, Stark asserted that evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the verdict. The district court affirmed. Stark now appeals from the decision of the district court.