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State v. Diaz

Court of Appeals of Idaho

November 2, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
AMANDA LUCY BELLE DIAZ, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 55

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Deborah A. Bail, District Judge. Judgment of conviction, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Brian R. Dickson, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          HUSKEY, Judge

         Amanda Lucy Belle Diaz appeals from the judgment of conviction entered after a jury found her guilty of driving while under the influence of drugs (DUI). Diaz argues the State elicited improper testimony from two witnesses resulting in prosecutorial misconduct. Diaz further asserts this misconduct rises to the level of fundamental error. Because the testimony from the two witnesses was admissible and not improper, Diaz has not established either prosecutorial misconduct or fundamental error. Consequently, we affirm the district court's judgment of conviction.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A police officer stopped Diaz because the officer suspected Diaz was driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. A second officer arrived at the scene shortly thereafter. Diaz stepped out of her car and stated that she was taking prescription medications.

          The second officer had Diaz perform field sobriety tests (FST). Diaz failed the tests. As a result, the FST officer determined Diaz was operating her motor vehicle while under the influence of some substance. The FST officer explained to Diaz that she was under arrest for suspicion of DUI, and the officer performed an alcohol breath test on Diaz. The test results did not indicate any breath alcohol. Because the FST officer suspected Diaz was under the influence of a controlled substance, he transported Diaz to the police station to complete a drug recognition evaluation (DRE). A different officer performed the DRE on Diaz. The DRE officer suspected Diaz was under the influence of drugs and asked Diaz to submit to a urinalysis test at the jail. Diaz agreed.

         Diaz was handcuffed and transported from the police station to jail. On the way to the jail, Diaz became unconscious and was taken to the hospital where she was asked to provide a urine sample. Diaz voluntarily provided an initial sample, but the amount of urine was insufficient to test. Ultimately, a urine sample was obtained[1] that indicated the presence of various controlled substances in Diaz's system. The State charged Diaz with felony DUI, Idaho Code §§ 18-8004, 18-8005(6), and misdemeanor driving without privileges (DWP), I.C. § 18-8001(3).

         At trial, the State called the FST officer and the DRE officer to testify. The State asked the FST officer to explain the discussion he had with Diaz regarding obtaining a fluid sample for drug testing. The officer testified that because he was a male officer he was not permitted to collect a urine sample from Diaz and no female officer was present at the police station to do so. The State then asked: "So what was the discussion--was there a further discussion with Ms. Diaz about things at that point?" The FST officer answered: "There was. There was a discussion of whether she would submit to a blood draw having Meridian Fire and Paramedics come take a blood sample from her. She did not consent to that, but she did agree to provide a [urine] sample at the jail." Diaz made no contemporaneous objection to the prosecutor's question of the FST officer or his response.

         Later, the State asked the DRE officer whether Diaz was impaired. Diaz objected to the prosecutor's question of the DRE officer on the basis that the DRE officer had not been qualified as an expert. The objection was overruled. The State asked the DRE officer: "Based on all the data that you gathered, going through your checklist, looking at your matrix, comparing all of that, what if any opinion would you be able to form about whether Ms. Diaz was impaired by any drugs that night?" The DRE officer testified:

Well, I came to the determination that she was impaired while she was operating that vehicle. And just under the DRE status is a drug defined as any substance that when taken into the human body can impair the ability of a person who can operate a vehicle safely. You know, I felt operating the vehicle at that time at the stop, she was impaired. I came to the conclusion she was impaired on CNS depressants, CNS stimulants and narcotic analgesics.

         The jury found Diaz guilty of felony DUI and misdemeanor DWP. After the jury returned its verdict, Diaz admitted to two sentencing enhancements. For the DUI, the district court imposed a unified sentence of fifteen years, with three years determinate, and retained jurisdiction. For the DWP, Diaz was sentenced to ninety days of jail with credit for time served, to run concurrently with the DUI sentence. Diaz timely appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In State v. Perry, 150 Idaho 209, 245 P.3d 961 (2010), the Idaho Supreme Court clarified the fundamental error doctrine as it applies to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Where a defendant demonstrates that prosecutorial misconduct has occurred, and such misconduct was followed by a contemporaneous objection by defense counsel, such error shall be reviewed for harmless error in accordance with Chapman.[2] Where a constitutional violation occurs at trial, and is followed by a contemporaneous objection, a reversal is necessitated, unless the State ...


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