How Could Judge Taylor Forget Garcia v. Commonwealth?

December 28, 2011

Note: I am cross posting this article from Crane Station’s site with her permission. In the article, she points out that Judge Taylor, who signed off on the opinion written by Judge Lambert in her case affirming the trial judge’s denial of her motion to suppress evidence, reached the opposite conclusion in an opinion that he wrote in Garcia v. Commonwealth. Judge Taylor was certainly free to change his mind. Judges who change their minds, typically write a concurring opinion explaining why they changed their mind. Usually a judge will change his mind because the Supreme Court has rendered a decision changing the law and the decision is binding precedent. The judge has no choice when that happens. Other times, for one reason or another, the judge will conclude that there is some significant fact in the case that differs from the earlier case causing him to reach an apparently contradictory conclusion. When that happens, the judge will write a concurring opinion distinguishing the two cases.

Judge Taylor, however, has remained silent, even though Crane’s lawyer handling the appeal specifically mentioned the contradiction in her Petition for Rehearing.

I suspect the answer may be due to the panel’s false assumptions (1) to rely on after-acquired and false information to support the trial judge’s clearly erroneous findings of fact and (2) to falsely declare that her lawyer failed to challenge any of the trial court’s findings of fact. I specifically addressed and shot down these false assumptions in The Decision From Hell (Part 1).

Judge Taylor’s refusal to explain himself and the panel’s refusal to mention and explain why the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Hensley does not require reversal is inexcusable and reflects poorly on the judges who decided the case, the Court of Appeals, and the legal system in general.

For those of you following the legal case, bear in mind that the case is no longer about me. The fact that the Kentucky Court of Appeals has designated the opinion in my case “to be published” means that they have deemed the case serious and important enough that it has precedential value for any and all related cases in the future; the Court seeks to make the Leatherman case available for future citation as binding case law.

In the Petition for Rehearing, Hon. Julia Pearson discussed a published Kentucky case, Garcia v. Commonwealth.

This Court also ignored Garcia v. Commonwealth, in which a member of this panel found the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver who “quickly changed to the right lane” as a Kentucky State Police Trooper approached the vehicle. 185 S.W.3d 658, 660-661 (Ky. App. 2006). The panel found that “Garcia’s nervousness, lane change, failure to make eye contact, ‘death grip’ on the steering wheel, and out-of-state license plate. . . . describe a substantial number of drivers on our highways.” Further, the panel said, “[i]f we were to accept the Commonwealth’s argument, ordinary law abiding citizens could be subjected to a stop by police based upon routine driving habits.” Id., at 665.

Contrast Garcia’s behavior with that of Rachel Leatherman in the case at bar. According to the officers in each case, both Leatherman and Garcia appeared nervous and changed lanes and had out-of-state license plates. The difference is that Leatherman driving with a turn signal blinking is somehow seen as suspicious behavior rather than the routine (for some drivers) driving habit that it unfortunately is.

The author of the published opinion in Garcia v. Commonwealth is Judge Taylor. Judge Taylor was a member of the panel in Leatherman as well. The Petition for Rehearing in Leatherman v. Commonwealth was denied without comment by judges Taylor, Lambert and Isaacs.

Note the ultimate irony, as stated by Hon. Julia Pearson:

The ultimate irony for this case is that after the hour and one-half Deputy McGuire held Rachel Leatherman on the side of the road, he found nothing illegal. This Court stated as much when it said, “consent searches of her automobile and her person did not reveal any heroin or any other illegal substance.” Leatherman, supra, 2011 WL 181251, at *7.

Such was not the case in Garcia.

Judge Taylor wrote the Garcia opinion. How could he sign off on, and seek publication of, the Leatherman opinion, reaching the opposite conclusion that he reached when he wrote Garcia? We do not know the answer to this question. At the vary least, Judge Taylor should have written a concurring opinion explaining why he reached the opposite conclusion, but he did not. His silence is deafening.

Here is the Garcia opinion that Judge Taylor wrote:

Garcia v. Commonwealth

THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF KENTUCKY

February 24, 2006

FRANCISCO GARCIA APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE
HEINRICH LETKEMAN APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM FRANKLIN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE WILLIAM L. GRAHAM, JUDGE ACTION Nos. 04-CR-00045-001 & 04-CR-00045-002.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Taylor, Judge

TO BE PUBLISHED

OPINION

(1)REVERSING AND REMANDING APPEAL NO. 2004-CA-002271-MR

(2) AFFIRMING APPEAL NO. 2004-CA-002283-MR

BEFORE: MINTON, SCHRODER, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES

Francisco Garcia brings Appeal No. 2004-CA-002271-MR from an October 4, 2004, judgment of the Franklin Circuit Court entered upon a conditional plea of guilty to trafficking in marijuana. Heinrich Letkeman brings Appeal No. 2004-CA-002283-MR from an October 4, 2004, judgment of the Franklin Circuit Court entered upon a conditional plea of guilty to trafficking in marijuana. We reverse and remand Appeal No. 2004-CA-002271-MR. We affirm Appeal No. 2004-CA-002283-MR.

On March 6, 2004, Garcia and his passenger, Letkeman, were traveling upon Interstate 64 in a 1993 Dodge Caravan. Kentucky State Trooper Jeremy Devasher approached the vehicle and noticed the vehicle quickly changed to the right lane. The trooper testified that he pulled his cruiser alongside the vehicle. Trooper Devasher thought that the driver, Garcia, looked nervous because he avoided making eye contact with the trooper and kept a “death grip” on the steering wheel of the vehicle. The trooper then observed cracks in the windshield of Garcia’s vehicle and thought the cracks impaired Garcia’s forward vision. At this point, Trooper Devasher stopped the vehicle for a traffic violation.

Trooper Devasher testified that he asked Garcia a series of questions in both English and Spanish; consequently, the trooper believed Garcia spoke English very well. Trooper Devasher testified that Garcia and Letkeman’s stories concerning their travel plans fell apart upon further questioning. The trooper also noted that neither had any luggage for a purported trip to Virginia.

The trooper issued a citation for a cracked windshield pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 189.110. After issuing the citation, the trooper informed Garcia the traffic stop was complete and he was free to leave. Trooper Devasher then asked Garcia for permission to search the vehicle. The trooper testified that Garcia nodded affirmatively and pointed to the vehicle. A search was commenced, and ten bricks of marijuana were seized from the vehicle.

Garcia and Letkeman were indicted by the Franklin County Grand Jury upon the offense of trafficking in marijuana over five pounds (KRS 218A.1421(4)). Thereafter, Garcia and Letkeman filed motions to suppress the evidence seized (marijuana) from the search of the vehicle. After an evidentiary hearing, the circuit court denied both motions to suppress.

Garcia and Letkeman entered conditional pleas of guilty to the offenses of trafficking in marijuana. Pursuant to the conditional pleas, Garcia and Letkeman preserved the issue of whether the circuit court properly denied their motions to suppress. See Ky. R. Crim. P. 8.09. On October 4, 2004, Garcia and Letkeman were each sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with one year to serve and the remaining sentence probated for a period of five years. These appeals follow.

Appeal No. 2004-CA-002271-MR

Garcia contends the circuit court erroneously denied the motion to suppress evidence seized from his vehicle. Specifically, Garcia contends the stop of his vehicle based upon the cracked windshield was improper. Garcia argues that the cracked windshield was not a violation of KRS 189.110. Thus, he contends the initial stop of the vehicle was without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and the circuit court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence.

Our standard of review of a suppression determination is succinctly set forth in Stewart v. Commonwealth, 44 S.W.3d 376, 380 (Ky.App. 2000)(footnote omitted):

First, the factual findings of the court are conclusive if they are supported by substantial evidence. The second prong involves a de novo review to determine whether the court’s decision is correct as a matter of law.

We observe that resolution of this appeal involves issues of both fact and law.

It is well-established that the stopping of a vehicle and detaining of its occupants amounts to a seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and under Section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution. It is equally axiomatic that a police officer may stop a motor vehicle if that officer possesses reasonable suspicion that criminal activity has occurred or is imminent. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979). The occurrence of a traffic violation is recognized as sufficient justification to warrant a stop of a motor vehicle.

The initial stop of Garcia’s vehicle was originally premised upon Trooper Devasher’s belief that the cracked windshield constituted a violation of KRS 189.110. This statute provides as follows:

(1) A windshield in a fixed and upright position, that is equipped with safety glazing as required by federal safety-glazing material standards, is required on every motor vehicle which is operated on the public highways, roads, and streets, except on a motorcycle or implement of husbandry.

(2) A person shall not operate a motor vehicle on a public highway, road, or street with any sign, sunscreening material, product, or covering attached to, or located in or upon the windshield, except the following:

(a) A certificate or other paper required to be displayed by law;

(b) Sunscreening material along a strip at the top of the windshield, if the material is transparent and does not encroach upon the driver’s direct forward viewing area as defined in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards No. 205 as the AS/1 portion of the windshield.

(3) A person shall not operate a motor vehicle required to be registered in the Commonwealth, on a public highway, road, or street on which vehicle the side wings and side windows on either side forward of or adjacent to the operator’s seat are composed of, covered by, or treated with any sunscreening material or other product or covering which has the effect of making the window nontransparent or which would alter the window’s color, increase its reflectivity, or reduce its light transmittance, except as expressly permitted by this section. A sunscreening material may be applied to the windows if, when tested on one-eighth (1/8) inch clear glass, the material has a total solar reflectance of visible light of not more than twenty-five percent (25%) as measured on the nonfilm side and a light transmittance of at least thirty-five percent (35%) in the visible light range.

(4) A person shall not operate a motor vehicle required to be registered in the Commonwealth, on a public highway, road, or street on which vehicle any windows behind the driver are composed of, covered by, or treated with any sunscreening material, or other product or material which has the effect of making the window nontransparent or which would alter the window’s color, increase its reflectivity, or reduce its light transmittance, except as specified below:

(a) Sunscreen material consisting of film which, when tested on one-eighth (1/8) inch clear glass, has a total solar reflectance of visible light of not more than thirty-five percent (35%) as measured on the nonfilm side and a light transmittance of at least eighteen percent (18%) in the visible light range; however, sunscreen material which, when tested on one-eighth (1/8) inch clear glass, has a total solar reflectance of visible light of not more than thirty-five percent (35%) as measured on the nonfilm side and a light transmittance of at least eight percent (8%) in the visible light range may be used on multipurpose passenger vehicles;

(b) Perforated sunscreening material which, when tested in conjunction with existing glazing or film material, has a total reflectance of visible light of not more than thirty-five percent (35%) and a light transmittance of no less than thirty percent (30%). For those products or materials having different levels of reflectance, the highest reflectance from the product or material will be measured by dividing the area into sixteen (16) equal sections and averaging the overall reflectance. The measured reflectance of any of those sections may not exceed fifty percent (50%).

(5) A person shall not operate a motor vehicle required to be registered in the Commonwealth, upon a public highway, road, or street, on which vehicle the rear window is composed of, covered by, or treated with any material which has the effect of making the window nontransparent, unless the vehicle is equipped with side mirrors on both sides.

(6) Each installer or seller of sunscreening material shall provide a pressure-sensitive, self-destructive, nonremovable, vinyl-type film label to the purchaser stating that the material complies with the provisions of KRS 189.010(20) to (23) and subsections (1) to (5) of this section. Each installer shall affix the required label to the inside left door jamb of the motor vehicle. In addition, the label shall state the trade name of the material and the installer’s or seller’s business name. Labeling is not required for factory glazing which complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 205.

(7) Every percentage measurement required by subsections (3) and (4) of this section is subject to a tolerance of plus or minus three percent (3%).

(8) A person shall not install window tinting materials on a vehicle that fails to meet the minimum standards for light transmission pursuant to subsections (3) and (4) of this section. Tinted material that fails to meet the minimum standards for light transmission pursuant to subsections (3) and (4) of this section shall be removed immediately.

(9) A person who applies sunscreening materials in violation of this section shall be guilty upon conviction of a Class B misdemeanor.

(10) Nothing in this section shall prevent the display of a representation of the American flag on the rear window of any motor vehicle, including any vehicle owned by a local or state government, provided that the representation does not exceed a size of five (5) inches by eight (8) inches and is placed in a lower corner of the rear window.

(11) The windshield on every motor vehicle shall be equipped with a device for cleaning rain, snow or other moisture from the windshield. The device shall be so constructed as to be controlled by the operator of the vehicle.

(12) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the use of any window which is composed of, covered by, or treated with any material or component in a manner approved by federal statute or regulation if the window was a component part of a vehicle at the time of the vehicle manufacture, or the replacement of any window by a covering which meets these requirements.

KRS 189.110.

A reading of KRS 189.110 reveals that it provides requirements for window sunscreening and tinting. It also sets forth mandatory safety glazing of glass and windshield wiper requirements. It, however, does not set forth any express or implied proscriptions against cracks in a vehicle’s windshield. Based upon the plain language of KRS 189.110, a cracked windshield simply does not constitute a violation of its provisions. As a cracked windshield is not a violation of KRS 189.110, we believe the Commonwealth cannot justify the stop of Garcia’s vehicle upon same.

Alternatively, the Commonwealth argues the traffic stop was lawful because the cracked windshield was a violation of KRS 189.020, which states as follows:

Every vehicle when on a highway shall be so equipped as to make a minimum of noise, smoke or other nuisance, to protect the rights of other traffic, and to promote the public safety.

The interpretation of a statute is a matter of law for the court. City of Worthington Hills v. Worthington Fire Prot. Dist., 140 S.W.3d 584 (Ky.App. 2004). When interpreting a statute, a word is to be afforded its ordinary meaning unless it has acquired a technical meaning. Id. Upon examination of KRS 189.020, we must initially decide whether a cracked windshield constitutes an “other nuisance” within its meaning. When interpreting the term “other nuisance” in KRS 189.020, we are guided by the rule of statutory interpretation called ejusdem generis:

[W]here, in a statute, general words follow or precede a designation of particular subjects or classes of persons, the meaning of the general words ordinarily will be presumed to be restricted by the particular designation, and to include only things or persons of the same kind, class, or nature as those specifically enumerated, unless there is a clear manifestation of a contrary purpose.

Steinfeld v. Jefferson County Fiscal Court, 312 Ky. 614, 229 S.W.2d 319, 320 (1950)(citations omitted). Applying the rule of ejusdem generis to KRS 189.020, the term “other nuisance” is preceded by the particular designation of “noise” and “smoke.” To effectuate legislative intent, we believe “other nuisance” should be interpreted as including only those nuisances of a similar kind as noise and smoke. Accordingly, we do not interpret the term “other nuisance” in KRS 189.020 as encompassing a cracked windshield.

KRS 189.020 also requires a vehicle to be equipped so as “to protect the rights of other traffic, and to promote the public safety.” A cracked windshield that unreasonably impairs the vision of a driver certainly increases the risk and likelihood of an accident. The increased risk would undoubtedly present a significant threat to public safety and would adversely affect the rights of other traffic. Therefore, we hold that a cracked windshield must unreasonably impair the vision of a vehicle’s driver to constitute a violation of KRS 189.020. We emphasize that a cracked windshield is a violation of KRS 189.020 only if it is of sufficient severity to unreasonably reduce the driver’s visibility.

In the case at hand, Trooper Devasher testified that he believed the cracked windshield impaired Garcia’s forward vision. The circuit court concluded:

Courts hold that stopping a vehicle for a traffic law violation is constitutionally permissible under the Terry test. Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996); Commonwealth v. Fox, Ky., 48 S.W.3d 24 (2001). That is the situation here. Before stopping the Defendants’ vehicle, the officer observed two cracks in the vehicle’s windshield. The officer believed the cracks impaired the driver’s vision and violated KRS 189.110. The officer subsequently stopped the vehicle and issued Defendant Garcia a citation for this violation. The vehicle stop, therefore, did not contravene the Constitution.

In the record, there exists a photograph of Garcia’s vehicle, which provides a full view of the windshield. Upon examination of the photograph, the cracks do not appear to be of sufficient severity to unreasonably impair Garcia’s forward vision. We observe that mere hairline cracks of a vehicle’s windshield are not typically of sufficient severity to constitute a violation of KRS 189.020. Hence, we are of the opinion that the cracks in the windshield of Garcia’s vehicle were not of sufficient severity to constitute a violation of KRS 189.020.

We also reject the Commonwealth’s attempt to justify the stop as an investigatory stop based upon reasonable suspicion of criminal activity under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The Commonwealth particularly argues:

Furthermore, given the training and experience of this officer, other indicia were present that suggested criminal activity might be afoot. The nervousness displayed by the driver, the erratic lane change upon observing that the officer was near, the failure to make eye contact, the “death grip” on the steering wheel, and the foreign license plate (knowing that the drug interdiction training indicated that illegal drugs typically travel east to west) led to further suspicion.

Commonwealth’s Brief at 12.

In Commonwealth v. Banks, 68 S.W.3d 347, 350-351 (Ky. 2001), the Supreme Court emphasized:

[T]he test for a Terry stop . . . is not whether an officer can conclude that an individual is engaging in criminal activity, but rather whether the officer can articulate reasonable facts to suspect that criminal activity may be afoot . . . . The totality of the circumstances must be evaluated to determine the probability of criminal conduct, rather than the certainty.

In the case sub judice, the articulated facts set forth by Trooper Devasher were Garcia’s nervousness, lane change, failure to make eye contact, “death grip” on the steering wheel, and out-of-state license plate. We believe these facts describe a substantial number of drivers on our highways and constitute an innocuous mirage created in an attempt to retrospectively justify the stop. If we were to accept the Commonwealth’s argument, ordinary law abiding citizens could be subjected to a stop by police based upon routine driving habits. Simply put, such routine driving habits do not warrant a police stop under Terry. As such, we do not believe that Trooper Devasher possessed the requisite reasonable suspicion to justify an investigatory stop of Garcia’s vehicle.

In sum, we hold the initial stop of Garcia’s vehicle was improper and the circuit court erred by denying Garcia’s motion to suppress the marijuana subsequently seized from the vehicle.

We view Garcia’s remaining contentions as moot.

Appeal No. 2004-CA-002283-MR

Letkeman argues that the circuit court improperly denied his motion to suppress the evidence seized from the vehicle.*fn1 Specifically, Letkeman contends that a cracked windshield is not a violation of KRS 189.110; thus, the initial stop was invalid. Letkeman further maintains that Garcia did not voluntarily consent to the search of the vehicle.

It has been recognized that the protection of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure is a personal right and cannot be vicariously asserted. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128 (1978)(citing Alderman v. United States, 394 U.S. 165 (1969)). To have standing to contest a search and seizure, an individual must possess a legitimate expectation of privacy in the area searched or property seized. Rakas, 439 U.S. 128. The United States Supreme Court has developed a two-step analysis for determining whether a legitimate expectation of privacy exists:

[W]hether the individual has exhibited a subjective expectation; and whether such subjective expectation, viewed objectively, is justifiable under the circumstances.

United States v. Thornley, 707 F.2d 622, 624 (1st Cir. 1983) (citing Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979)).

In the case at hand, we cannot say that Letkeman possessed a reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle. The record indicates that Letkeman was a passenger in the vehicle and did not assert an ownership or possessory interest in the vehicle. A mere passenger in a vehicle generally does not have the requisite expectation of privacy to raise the issue of the legality of the vehicle’s search. Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128 (1978).

Letkeman also claims ownership of the marijuana seized from the vehicle and believes that such ownership in the property seized confers standing. The ownership and possession of seized property is not dispositive upon the issue of expectation of privacy; rather, such are simply factors to be considered. United States v. Salvucci, 448 U.S. 83 (1980).

In this case, the seized property was wrapped bricks of marijuana. These bricks were hidden in the vehicle’s rear storage compartments. Applying the two-part analysis for determining whether an expectation of privacy existed, we believe Letkeman satisfied the first part because it is uncontroverted he possessed a subjective expectation of privacy in the marijuana. However, the second part of the test requires that the subjective expectation of privacy be objectively reasonable under the circumstances.

The facts reveal that Letkeman was only a passenger in the vehicle and did not have control over its contents. Specifically, it appears that Letkeman did not possess the legal right to exclude third parties from exercising possession or control over the vehicle or its contents. Moreover, the marijuana bricks were not concealed by Letkeman in luggage or other baggage. Rather, the bricks were simply hidden in the vehicle’s rear storage compartments. Considering the unique circumstances of this case, we cannot say Letkeman possessed an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in the seized marijuana.

In sum, we are of the opinion that Letkeman did not possess the requisite expectation of privacy to establish standing to contest the legality of the vehicle’s stop or of the marijuana’s seizure.

Letkeman also argues that his detention following the vehicle’s stop was unreasonably long and constituted a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution. Letkeman particularly maintains he was detained by Trooper Devasher for some thirty minutes while waiting for another trooper to arrive. Letkeman contends that Trooper Devasher lacked reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to warrant the thirty-minute detention and that the citation took only a few minutes to issue.

In Ohio v. Robinette, 519 U.S. 33 (1996), the Supreme Court recognized that the legality of a continued detention following a stop for a traffic violation is a question of reasonableness. It has been held:

Questions that hold potential for detecting crime, yet create little or no inconvenience, do not turn reasonable detention into unreasonable detention. They do not signal or facilitate oppressive police tactics that may burden the public-for all suspects (even the guilty ones) may protect themselves fully by declining to answer. Nor do the questions forcibly invade any privacy interest or extract information without the suspects’ consent.

United States v. Burton, 334 F.3d 514, 518 (6th Cir. 2003).

In the case sub judice, the record indicates that Trooper Devasher questioned Letkeman and Garcia, checked the vehicle’s registration and license plate, and checked Garcia’s out-of-state driver’s license. Upon the whole, we believe the continued detention of Letkeman for some thirty minutes after the initial traffic stop was reasonable.

Letkeman additionally maintains the statement he made to police following his arrest should be suppressed.*fn2

Specifically, Letkeman alleges he did not voluntarily and knowingly waive his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). Letkeman contends he was advised of his Miranda rights in English but that he “did not understand English sufficiently to make a valid waiver of these important rights.” Letkeman Brief at 19. Letkeman claims his primary language is Spanish.

In its order denying Letkeman’s motion to suppress, the circuit court found:

Detective Brennan testified that Letkeman spoke English to him, answered everything asked of him, and he and Letkeman could communicate with each other.” (Comm. Br. at 13). Trooper Devasher testified that Letkeman answered “yes” when Devasher asked him if he understood his Miranda rights. Devasher also testified that Letkeman knew English better than he originally led the trooper to believe. Though Letkeman testified that he does not speak English and did not understand everything that Trooper Devasher said, the Court finds in favor of the Commonwealth based on the testimony by Brennan and Devasher.

Based upon the testimony of Detective Brennan and Trooper Devasher, we conclude the circuit court’s findings that Letkeman understood English and understood he was waiving his rights under Miranda were not clearly erroneous. See Stewart, 44 S.W.3d 376.

For the foregoing reasons, Appeal No. 2004-CA-002271-MR is reversed and this cause remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion, and Appeal No. 2004-CA-002283-MR is affirmed.

ALL CONCUR.


The Full-Text Published Opinion Affirming [Frog Gravy Legal Case]

December 26, 2011

• LEATHERMAN v. COMMONWEALTH…

LEATHERMAN v. COMMONWEALTH

RACHEL LEATHERMAN, APPELLANT,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, APPELLEE.

No. 2008-CA-000849-MR.

Court of Appeals of Kentucky.

January 21, 2011.

Julia K. Pearson , Frankfort, Kentucky, Briefs for Appellant.

Jack Conway , Attorney General of Kentucky, Gregory C. Fuchs, Assistant Attorney General, Frankfort, Kentucky, Brief for Appellee.

BEFORE: TAYLOR, CHIEF JUDGE; LAMBERT, JUDGE; HENRY,1 SENIOR JUDGE.

OPINION

LAMBERT, JUDGE.

Rachel Leatherman directly appeals from the judgment of the McCracken Circuit Court following a jury trial convicting her of possession of a controlled substance (cocaine), tampering with physical evidence, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As a result of those convictions, the trial court sentenced Leatherman to a total of eight years’ imprisonment. On appeal, Leatherman challenges the trial court’s failure to suppress evidence obtained in conjunction with the investigatory stop and her subsequent arrest, the trial court’s granting of the Commonwealth’s motion in limine that prohibited her from mentioning her statement to Deputy McGuire, and the trial court’s failure to grant a directed verdict on the DUI charge. Having thoroughly reviewed the record on appeal and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

The facts leading up to Leatherman’s arrest and subsequent conviction are as follows: On June 28, 2006, Vernon Wilkey made an emergency 911 call to report events in his neighborhood on Queensway Drive. The record contains an unofficial transcript of his 911 call:

DISPATCHER: Central dispatch. This is Lou. Could I help you.

MR. WILKEY: Yes, sir. This is Vernon Wilkey. I live out here on Queensway Drive.

And there is a lady in a dark blue looks like a Buick LeSabre. I’d say it’s a late ’80s, early ’90s model. And I’ve got a license plate number. But she’s out here walking around in my neighbor’s yard and everything and writing stuff down, and she’d talked to him and mentioned something about tar heroin and all that stuff.

DISPATCHER: Talked to who?

MR. WILKEY: My neighbor next door.

DISPATCHER: And was talking to him about heroin?

MR. WILKEY: Yeah, tar heroin.

* * * *

DISPATCHER: …. Okay. Do you know what she was writing down?

MR. WILKEY: No.

DISPATCHER: What address on Queensway Drive was she last seen at?

MR. WILKEY: She was just here at mine a few minutes ago at 4015.

DISPATCHER: Is she white or black?

MR. WILKEY: She’s white.

DISPATCHER: Hold on just a moment, please.

* * * *

DISPATCHER: What’s the license plate number on that vehicle, sir?

MR. WILKEY: [License number omitted.]

* * * *

DISPATCHER: What state is that?

MR. WILKEY: Seattle, Washington.

She said something about her and her husband staying in a motel and everything.

* * * *

DISPATCHER: All right. Officers are already on the way. They’ll be out there to speak with you shortly.
If she leaves before they get out there to check the area, could you give us a call back and let us know which way she goes?

MR. WILKEY: Okay.

The following day, Mr. Wilkey completed a written statement detailing what had happened:

On 6-28-2006 a Lady driven a Buick Lasaber stoped at my driveway and ask me if I would sell 2 berrlles and i said they belong to my Naber. She had her paints unbuttoned & unzipped. She acked like she was under the Influence of something. She was a dirty Blound wereing Blue shirt & Blue Jeans. [Spelling and grammatical errors in original.]

The record also includes an unofficial transcript of the dispatch tape, which reads in pertinent part as follows:

DIS: 47. 38. Suspicious person complaint, the 4000 block off of Queensway Drive off of Lesser Harris and Bottom Street. A white female in a dark blue LeSabre that’s out walking around asking people about 218A.2

* * *

DIS: 38 and 47, that dark blue LeSabre’s going to have a Washington tag. [License number omitted.] They don’t know who she is, but they’re going to call us back if the vehicle leaves before you arrive.

Deputy Eddie McGuire of the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department responded to the call and proceeded to the Queensway Drive area. The subject of the complaint was no longer in the area, but on his way back into town, Deputy McGuire came upon a blue Buick LeSabre with Washington license plates in the right lane with the left blinker flashing. The dispatch transcript reflects: “I just passed her. Going to try to find her. See if she’ll pass me again. I think she’s gonna turn off now. Coming up on Cairo and 60.” When Deputy McGuire pulled his cruiser behind the LeSabre, the driver turned on the right turn signal and pulled off to the right side of the road. Deputy McGuire then turned on his lights and pulled up behind the LeSabre. We note that the record contains a videotape of the cruiser cam video; unfortunately, there is no audio recording attached to the video.

Deputy McGuire approached the driver’s side of the stopped vehicle and had the driver step out. The driver was Rachel Leatherman, and a records check showed that there were no active warrants for her arrest. Deputy McGuire noticed that Leatherman had glassy eyes, that her pants were unbuttoned and unzipped, and that a pant leg was rolled up. He also noticed that she was nervous and fidgety. Deputy McGuire then performed field sobriety tests. On the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, Leatherman showed six clues that indicated impairment. A breath test and later blood tests revealed that there were no drugs or alcohol in Leatherman’s system.

When Deputy McGuire asked her about the 911 call, Leatherman referred to Mr. Wilkey as a snitch. She admitted to having been in the Queensway Drive area and to asking a man about some barrels. She also stated that she was on several prescription medications, including Adderall, Metoprolol, and Clonazepam. By this time a second deputy, Deputy Jason Walters, had arrived. Leatherman consented to a search of her car, during which they found a bottle of prescription medication, a full cup of beer in the console, and a recorked bottle of wine on the floor of the passenger side. They did not find any illegal drugs during the search.

Deputy McGuire requested that a female officer respond to the scene to perform a search of Leatherman. Paducah Police Officer Gretchen Dawes responded, obtained consent to search, and performed a thorough search of Leatherman, including the front and back pockets of her jeans, the rolled up pants legs, and under her T-shirt. The search is depicted in the cruiser cam video. Officer Dawes did not find any weapons or illegal drugs on her person. Following this search, Deputy McGuire arrested Leatherman for DUI, handcuffed her, and placed her in the back seat of his cruiser. The three officers then performed another search of her vehicle, including the trunk. Again, no illegal drugs were found.

Once the search was concluded, Deputy McGuire drove Leatherman to Lourdes Hospital where blood was drawn for a blood test. When Deputy McGuire removed her from the cruiser at the hospital, Leatherman claims that she stated she had dropped her watch in the back seat. During this period, Deputy McGuire claims to have noticed a small baggie containing what was later confirmed to be crack cocaine in the seatbelt crack in the vicinity of Leatherman’s watch. When confronted with this, Leatherman denied that the drugs were hers.
Based on the above, the McCracken County grand jury indicted Leatherman for possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) (KRS 218A.1415), tampering with physical evidence (KRS 524.100) by concealing the baggie of crack cocaine, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs (KRS 189A.010).

Leatherman moved to suppress the evidence discovered as a result of her stop and arrest, arguing that the stop was based on an uncorroborated tip and that there was no probable cause to justify the arrest.

Following a suppression hearing, the trial court denied the motion to suppress. It went on to deny subsequent motions to reconsider that ruling, although it did enter a substitute order. The matter proceeded to trial, after which the jury found Leatherman guilty as charged in the indictment. Following the penalty phase and in accordance with the jury’s recommendation, the trial court sentenced Leatherman to two consecutive four-year terms of imprisonment for the possession and tampering convictions as well as to forty-eight hours in jail and a $200.00 fine for the DUI conviction. This appeal follows.

On appeal, Leatherman raises three issues. First, she argues that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress. Second, she argues that the trial court improperly granted the Commonwealth’s motion in limine regarding her statements to Deputy McGuire about her watch. Third, she argues that the trial court should have granted her motion for a directed verdict on the DUI charge. We shall address each of these arguments in turn.

The first issue we shall address is whether the trial court properly denied Leatherman’s motion to suppress. The trial court entered two orders addressing this issue, which we shall set forth in full below.

On January 18, 2008, just prior to the trial in the matter, the trial court entered a substitute order denying Leatherman’s motion to suppress:3

This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s motion, through counsel, to supplement the record and to reconsider and set aside an order denying his [sic] motion to suppress evidence. The record is ORDERED supplemented with a 911 transcript. The Court now sets aside its prior order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and substitutes this order denying the motion to suppress.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. Police dispatch received a telephone call from a person who gave his name and address, stating that a white female in a vehicle that looked like a late 80’s or early 90’s dark blue Buick LaSabre [sic], bearing Seattle Washington license plate number . . . was . . . walking around in [his] neighbors yard and everything and writing stuff down, and she’d talked to him and mentioned something about tar heroin and all that stuff.”

2. A Sheriff’s deputy testified that dispatch radioed the incident and stated that the white female was attempting to buy heroin.

3. The deputy observed a dark blue LaSabre [sic] with the . . . Washington plate, driven by a white female in a right hand traffic lane with her left turn signal activated. The vehicle did not turn but pulled to the right side of the roadway and stopped.

4. The deputy pulled in behind the stopped vehicle and activated his emergency lights.

5. When the deputy went to the vehicle he observed the Defendant with her pants unzipped and unbuttoned. The deputy observed in plain view an open container of what he suspected to be beer and an opened but corked bottle of wine in the car.

6. Defendant failed all six clues of a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, had very glassy eyes, and appeared nervous. When the deputy asked her if she was taking any medication that would explain her condition she stated that she was on several medications, including Clonazepam.

7. The maker of Clonazepam warns that it should not be used when driving a vehicle and that the drug causes abnormal eye movements.

8. The deputy arrested Defendant for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol and placed her in the back seat of his patrol car, which he had searched and found clean of any drugs or other items.

9. When Defendant later exited the patrol car the officer searched the back seat and found a piece of cellophane which appeared to contain a controlled substance. The cellophane was located behind the back seat adjacent to what Defendant identified as her wristwatch.

10. The suspected controlled substance lab tested as cocaine.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

1. The deputy did not conduct a stop of Defendant’s vehicle. Defendant pulled off the roadway and stopped. The deputy then pulled in behind her and activated his emergency lights so as to investigate.

2. The combination of a report of an unknown person, driving a Washington state licensed vehicle in a Paducah, Kentucky residential area, asking about tar heroin, later observed to signal a left turn but pull off the roadway to the right, constitutes reasonable suspicion to investigate and possibly cite for improper signal.

3. A report of suspicious activity by a person who identifies himself by name, telephone number, and address, is presumptively reliable.

4. Defendant’s inquiring about heroin, failing a HGN test, signaling a left turn and pulling off the road to the right, and stating that she was taking medication that would cause her to fail the test, constitutes probable cause to arrest for DUI.

5. A police officer may legally search the back seat of his patrol car where the defendant was placed incident to arrest.

6. The results of the search and the plain view discovery of the wine and suspected beer is admissible as evidence at trial.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to suppress is DENIED.

On January 28, 2008, following the trial, the court entered a supplemental order denying the motion to suppress:

The defendant has requested the court to consider additional information and evidence supplementing the record in this case, based upon which the Court makes the following supplemental Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in denying defendant’s Motion to Suppress:

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. The 911 dispatcher received a call from an identified public citizen, Vernon Wilkey, who reported that a white female driving a dark blue LaSabre [sic] with Washington State license plates made unusual and disturbing statements about heroin in his neighborhood.

2. 911 called deputies and alerted them to the woman, her vehicle, and her suspicious drug activity.

3. Within minutes Deputy McGuire observed a dark blue LaSabre [sic] with Washington State license plates driven by a white female exactly matching the 911 description. The vehicle was traveling slowly in the right traffic lane of Highway 60 with the left turn signal activated for an unusually long time for no apparent reason. The vehicle did not turn left, but continued on straight, which all appeared unusual and suspicious to the deputy.

4. The vehicle then pulled to the right side of the road and stopped without any signaling to do so by the deputy. This demonstrated additional unusual behavior by the defendant. The deputy then pulled in behind the defendant’s vehicle and activated his roadside stop lights. By the time the deputy stopped, he had reasonable grounds and reasonable suspicion to approach the driver. He exited his cruiser and walked to speak to the driver.

5. The deputy observed in plain view a half empty but opened container of beer and a half empty but corked bottle of wine. The defendant’s eyes were glassy. He then had reasonable grounds to check the driver’s sobriety. The defendant failed all HGN tests. She also gave unusual responses to instructions given to her by the deputy, she appeared somewhat confused; she appeared nervous; and she appeared to the deputy to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

6. The defendant admitted to the deputy that she was on a number of medications, including Clonazepam. Clonazepam is a strong anti-psychotic medication which interferes with motor performance, including driving a motor vehicle. Clonazepam also causes abnormal eye movements.

7. The deputy had reasonable grounds and probable cause to arrest the defendant for DUI.

8. The defendant was transported to the hospital for the taking of a blood test. At the hospital a suspicious baggie was found next to the defendant’s watch in the back seat of the deputy’s patrol cruiser. The deputy knew that the patrol cruiser did not have the suspicious plastic baggie or a watch before the defendant was placed into the back seat. The defendant admitted losing her watch. The deputy had probable cause and exigent reasons to seize the baggie. The baggie appeared to contain crack cocaine. The deputy had probable cause to arrest the defendant for tampering with evidence and possession of cocaine.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

1. The caller who reported the defendant’s unusual interest in heroin was identified. Such a report is considered more reliable than an anonymous tip.

2. The deputy had reasonable suspicion and probable cause to make an investigation stop and search of the defendant and her vehicle.

3. Discovery of the suspicious plastic baggie in the back seat of the deputy’s cruiser was based on plain view discovery. The defendant and her vehicle had previously been properly detained based on the circumstances above which proceeded [sic] the discovery of the baggie.

Our standard of review from a denial of a motion to suppress is twofold. First, we must determine whether the findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. If so, those findings are conclusive. Kentucky Rules of Criminal Procedure (RCr) 9.78; Adcock v. Commonwealth,967 S.W.2d 6, 8 (Ky. 1998). If not, the factual findings must be overturned as clearly erroneous. Farmer v.Commonwealth,169 S.W.3d 50, 53 (Ky. App. 2005). Second, we must perform a de novo review of those factual findings to determine whether the lower court’s decision is correct as a matter of law. Ornelas v. United States,517 U.S. 690, 697, 116 S.Ct. 1657, 1662, 134 L. Ed. 2d 911 (1996); Commonwealth v. Banks,68 S.W.3d 347, 349 (Ky. 2001); Garcia v. Commonwealth,185 S.W.3d 658, 661 (Ky. App. 2006); Stewart v. Commonwealth,44 S.W.3d 376, 380 (Ky. App. 2000).

Leatherman has not contested the trial court’s factual findings in its orders denying her motion to suppress. Rather, she has contested the trial court’s conclusions of law based upon those findings.
Our first consideration is whether Deputy McGuire had sufficient reason to stop and investigate Leatherman’s automobile. We hold that Deputy McGuire had sufficient grounds to stop Leatherman and investigate the situation, as well as probable cause to arrest her.

In Taylor v. Commonwealth,987 S.W.2d 302, 305 (Ky. 1998), the Supreme Court of Kentucky addressed the investigatory stop of automobiles and held:

In order to justify an investigatory stop of an automobile, the police must have a reasonable articulable suspicion that the persons in the vehicle are, or are about to become involved in criminal activity. United States v. Cortez,449 U.S. 411, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621 (1981); Commonwealth v. Hagan, Ky., 464 S.W.2d 261 (1971). In order to determine whether there was a reasonable articulable suspicion, the reviewing appellate court must weigh the totality of the circumstances. See Alabama v. White,496 U.S. 325, 110 S.Ct. 2412, 110 L.Ed.2d 301 (1990).

More recently, in Johnson v. Commonwealth,179 S.W.3d 882, 884 (Ky. App. 2005), this Court addressed the same issue, setting forth the applicable law as follows:

It is well settled that an investigative stop of an automobile is constitutional as long as law enforcement officials have a reasonable suspicion — supported by specific and articulable facts — that the occupant of the vehicle has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense. Delaware v. Prouse,440 U.S. 648, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 59 L.Ed.2d 660 (1979); Collins v. Commonwealth,142 S.W.3d 113 (Ky. 2004). In addition to the requirement that the stop be justified at its inception, the police officer’s subsequent actions must be reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that gave credence to the initial stop. Terry v. Ohio,392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). “[A]n investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.” Florida v. Royer,460 U.S. 491, 500, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 1325, 75 L.Ed.2d 229, 238 (1983).

Reasonableness “is measured in objective terms by examining the totality of the circumstances.” Ohio v. Robinette,519 U.S. 33, 39, 117 S.Ct. 417, 421, 136 L. Ed. 2d 347 (1996).

Based upon the prior 911 call, during which the caller described a woman driving a car that displayed Washington state license plates who was committing criminal activity, and the undisputed fact that Leatherman pulled to the side of the road and stopped before Deputy McGuire activated his emergency lights, we hold that there was no constitutional violation in the investigatory stop. However, the law is clear that a stop may only continue long enough for the officer to determine whether his suspicions were correct.

On this issue, the United States Supreme Court has held:

The predicate permitting seizures on suspicion short of probable cause is that law enforcement interests warrant a limited intrusion on the personal security of the suspect. The scope of the intrusion permitted will vary to some extent with the particular facts and circumstances of each case. This much, however, is clear: an investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop. Similarly, the investigative methods employed should be the least intrusive means reasonably available to verify or dispel the officer’s suspicion in a short period of time. It is the State’s burden to demonstrate that the seizure it seeks to justify on the basis of a reasonable suspicion was sufficiently limited in scope and duration to satisfy the conditions of an investigative seizure.
Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 1325-26, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229 (1983) (internal citations omitted, emphasis added).

Here, Deputy McGuire noted that Leatherman exhibited glassy eyes and that she was acting nervous and fidgety. He also noted that she had a cup of beer and an opened, but recorked, bottle of wine in the vehicle. That certainly provided Deputy McGuire with grounds to determine whether Leatherman was driving under the influence by performing field sobriety tests. Leatherman then demonstrated six clues on the HGN test.4 Accordingly, because of the open containers of alcohol and the results of the HGN test, the deputies were justified in performing a breathalyzer test to determine whether Leatherman was under the influence of alcohol.

We note for the record that the test was negative and that later blood tests were also negative for alcohol or drugs.

Finally, consent searches of her automobile and her person did not reveal any heroin or any other illegal substance. However, there is no dispute that the deputies discovered a bottle of prescription medication, and Leatherman admitted that she was on several medications, including Clonazepam, which did constitute sufficient grounds for her continued detention. Our conclusion is supported by this admission, as well as Deputy McGuire’s testimony related to his observations of Leatherman.

We must next consider whether Deputy McGuire had the requisite probable cause to arrest Leatherman without a warrant.

KRS 431.005(1) permits a peace officer, including a sheriff’s deputy, to make an arrest in the following situations:

(a) In obedience to a warrant; or

(b) Without a warrant when a felony is committed in his presence; or

(c) Without a warrant when he has probable cause to believe that the person being arrested has committed a felony; or

(d) Without a warrant when a misdemeanor, as defined in KRS 431.060, has been committed in his presence; or

(e) Without a warrant when a violation of KRS 189.290, 189.393, 189.520, 189.580, 511.080, or 525.070 has been committed in his presence, except that a violation of KRS 189A.010 or KRS 281A.210 need not be committed in his presence in order to make an arrest without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has violated KRS 189A.010 or KRS 281A.210.

There is no dispute that Deputy McGuire did not have a warrant for Leatherman’s arrest. Therefore, his authority to arrest Leatherman would fall under subsection (e).

In Maryland v. Pringle,540 U.S. 366, 124 S.Ct. 795, 157 L. Ed. 2d 769 (2003), the United States Supreme Court addressed warrantless arrests and the concept of probable cause. The Court recognized as a general matter that, “[a] warrantless arrest of an individual in a public place for a felony, or a misdemeanor committed in the officer’s presence, is consistent with the Fourth Amendment if the arrest is supported by probable cause[,]” id., 540 U.S. at 370, 124 S. Ct. at 799, and then addressed the question as to “whether the officer had probable cause to believe that Pringle committed that crime [possession of cocaine].” Id. It went on to provide a comprehensive discussion of the probable-cause standard:

The long-prevailing standard of probable cause protects citizens from rash and unreasonable interferences with privacy and from unfounded charges of crime, while giving fair leeway for enforcing the law in the community’s protection. On many occasions, we have reiterated that the probable-cause standard is a practical, nontechnical conception that deals with the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent men, not legal technicians, act. Probable cause is a fluid concept — turning on the assessment of probabilities in particular factual contexts — not readily, or even usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules.

The probable-cause standard is incapable of precise definition or quantification into percentages because it deals with probabilities and depends on the totality of the circumstances. We have stated, however, that the substance of all the definitions of probable cause is a reasonable ground for belief of guilt, and that the belief of guilt must be particularized with respect to the person to be searched or seized.
Id., 540 U.S. at 370-71, 124 S. Ct. at 799-800 (internal citations, quotations, and brackets omitted). Finally, the Court instructed that “[t]o determine whether an officer had probable cause to arrest an individual, we examine the events leading up to the arrest, and then decide `whether these historical facts, viewed from the standpoint of an objectively reasonable police officer, amount to’ probable cause.” Id., 540 U.S. at 371, 124 S. Ct. at 800.

Similarly, the Supreme Court of Kentucky has stated:

As the United States Supreme Court has remarked, probable cause is a flexible, common-sense standard. It merely requires that the facts available to the officer would “warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief,” that certain items may be contraband or stolen property or useful as evidence of a crime; it does not demand any showing that such a belief be correct or more likely true than false. A “practical, nontechnical” probability that incriminating evidence is involved is all that is required.
Williams v. Commonwealth, 147 S.W.3d 1, 7-8 (Ky. 2004).

In the present case, we hold that Deputy McGuire had probable cause to arrest Leatherman for DUI. Deputy McGuire testified that Leatherman appeared to be under the influence of something, despite his observation that she was not driving erratically or weaving.

Furthermore, Leatherman failed the HGN test, which reveals intoxication by alcohol or some other drug, although she later passed the breathalyzer test. Finally, the product information for Klonopin (Clonazepam) attached to Leatherman’s brief states that patients taking that medication “should be cautioned about operating hazardous machinery, including automobiles, until they are reasonably certain the Klonopin therapy does not affect them adversely.”

Therefore, the observation of Leatherman’s glassy eyes and odd behavior coupled with her admission that she was taking prescription medication that included a warning about driving was sufficient to provide Deputy McGuire with probable cause to arrest her for DUI. Therefore, Deputy McGuire’s warrantless arrest of Leatherman did not deprive her of her constitutional rights against illegal search and seizure.

Next, we shall address Leatherman’s argument that the trial court erred in granting the Commonwealth’s motion in limine prohibiting her from mentioning any statement or question she made to Deputy McGuire regarding her watch in the backseat of the cruiser. Leatherman contends that she should have been permitted to elicit testimony from Deputy McGuire that she had asked him about her watch before he actually discovered it or the drugs in the backseat of the cruiser.

Because Deputy McGuire was permitted to testify that Leatherman admitted the watch was hers, she argues that the jury was left with the impression that the drugs were also hers. She goes on to argue that her statement to Deputy McGuire about her watch did not constitute hearsay because it was not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement — that she had lost her watch. Rather, it was offered to show the effect it had on Deputy McGuire in that he looked behind the seat to retrieve the watch (where he found the drugs) and to establish his inconsistent statements from earlier proceedings. The Commonwealth, in turn, argues that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in disallowing the introduction of this statement during Deputy McGuire’s testimony.

In support of this argument, Leatherman cites to Schrimsher v. Commonwealth,190 S.W.3d 318 (Ky. 2006). In Schrimsher, the Supreme Court of Kentucky addressed the application of Kentucky Rules of Evidence (KRE) 106, also known as the rule of completeness, which provides: “When a writing or recorded statement or part thereof is introduced by a party, an adverse party may require the introduction at that time of any other part or any other writing or recorded statement which ought in fairness to be considered contemporaneously with it.”

Describing the rule, the Schrimsher Court held that,
[A] party purporting to invoke KRE 106 for the admission of otherwise inadmissible hearsay statements may only do so to the extent that an opposing party’s introduction of an incomplete out-of-court statement would render the statement misleading or alter its perceived meaning. The issue is whether the meaning of the included portion is altered by the excluded portion.
Schrimsher, 190 S.W.3d at 330-31 (footnote, citation, and internal quotation marks omitted).

Regarding Leatherman’s reliance on Schrimsher, the Commonwealth argues that she was attempting to explain an earlier statement, not complete an incomplete out-of-court statement to prevent the jury from being misled. The Commonwealth also argues that Leatherman is precluded from raising the issue of the discrepancy in Deputy McGuire’s statements during the course of the proceedings because there was no foundation in place that would permit her to impeach his prior statements and because the argument was different from the one presented below, citing Kennedy v. Commonwealth,544 S.W.2d 219, 222 (Ky. 1976), overruled on other grounds by Wilburn v. Commonwealth, 213 S.W.3d 321 (Ky. 2010).

Kentucky law is well settled that a trial court’s decision to admit evidence is subject to an abuse of discretion standard.

Since the trial court’s unique role as a gatekeeper of evidence requires on-the-spot rulings on the admissibility of evidence, we may reverse a trial court’s decision to admit evidence only if that decision represents an abuse of discretion. And for a trial court’s decision to be an abuse of discretion, we must find that the decision was arbitrary, unreasonable, unfair, or unsupported by sound legal principles.
Clark v. Commonwealth, 223 S.W.3d 90, 95 (Ky. 2007) (internal quotation marks and footnotes omitted). Similarly, “[a] trial court’s ruling under KRE 106 (i.e., the “rule of completeness”) is discretionary.” Schrimsher,190 S.W.3d 318, 330 (Ky. 2006).

While we disagree with the Commonwealth’s “can of worms” argument, we ultimately agree that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to admit this statement during Deputy McGuire’s testimony. We note that the trial court indicated that it would permit Leatherman to testify to her statement regarding the watch had she opted to take the stand in her own defense. Furthermore, Leatherman did not attempt to impeach Deputy McGuire’s prior statements regarding the discovery of the watch and drugs through laying a proper foundation. Even if we were to hold that this ruling was made in error, we must hold that it constitutes harmless error as the ruling is not “inconsistent with substantial justice.” RCr 9.24. Permitting the introduction of this out of court would not have changed the outcome due to the strength of the rest of the testimony that was introduced, including the close proximity of the watch and the drugs as well as the search of the area prior to Leatherman’s placement in the cruiser.

Furthermore, we perceive no palpable error under RCr 10.26 in the Commonwealth Attorney’s statements during closing argument. Leatherman contends that she established palpable error in the Commonwealth Attorney’s reference to her watch as an “autograph” on the drugs and as well as in what she describes as an impermissible comment on her silence in the following passage from the trial:

The simple issue under this case is whether a jury is going to hold her accountable or give her a pass for reasons that have not been presented, no justifications, no excuses, no contradictions of the facts and the testimony you heard.

We disagree with Leatherman’s assertion that such argument violated her constitutional rights or rose to the level of palpable error justifying any further review.

Finally, we shall consider Leatherman’s argument that the trial court erred in denying her motion for a directed verdict on the DUI charge. Leatherman contends that the Commonwealth failed to introduce sufficient proof to permit the matter to go to the jury because there was no scientific proof revealing the presence of a prescription medication in her system.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky succinctly set forth the directed verdict rule in Commonwealth v. Benham,816 S.W.2d 186, 187 (Ky. 1991):

On motion for directed verdict, the trial court must draw all fair and reasonable inferences from the evidence in favor of the Commonwealth. If the evidence is sufficient to induce a reasonable juror to believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, a directed verdict should not be given. For the purpose of ruling on the motion, the trial court must assume that the evidence for the Commonwealth is true, but reserving to the jury questions as to the credibility and weight to be given to such testimony.

On appellate review, the test of a directed verdict is, if under the evidence as a whole, it would be clearly unreasonable for a jury to find guilt, only then the defendant is entitled to a directed verdict of acquittal. See also Wilburn v. Commonwealth, 312 S.W.3d 321 (Ky. 2010).

The applicable statute in this case is KRS 189A.010, which addresses the crime of driving under the influence. Specifically related to this case, the Commonwealth was required to prove that Leatherman was operating her motor vehicle “[w]hile under the influence of any other substance or combination of substances which impairs one’s driving ability.” KRS 189A.010(1)(c).

The evidence elicited at trial established that Leatherman admitted to Deputy McGuire that she was taking three prescription medications, including Clonazepam, which contains a warning regarding driving while on that medication. Deputy McGuire also testified as to his observations of Leatherman’s behavior, including the results of the HGN test showing intoxication.

Furthermore, Mr. Wilkey testified at trial that Leatherman and her husband visited him several months after the incident regarding his upcoming testimony. He reported that Leatherman told him that she was unable to remember what they discussed because she was “whacked out.” This evidence is more than a mere scintilla and is of sufficient substance to permit the question of guilt to go to the jury. Commonwealth v. Sawhill,660 S.W.2d 3, 5 (Ky. 1983).

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the McCracken Circuit Court is affirmed.

ALL CONCUR.

Footnotes

1. Senior Judge Michael L. Henry concurred in this opinion prior to the expiration of his term of senior judge service. Release of the opinion was delayed by administrative handling.

Back to Reference

2. We assume “218A” refers to Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Chapter 218A, which addresses controlled substances.

Back to Reference

3. The original order denying Leatherman’s motion to suppress had been entered on January 11, 2007.

Back to Reference

4. “Nystagmus is an involuntary rapid movement of the eyeball, which may be horizontal, vertical, or rotatory. (The Sloane-Dorland Ann. Medical-Legal Dict. (1987) p. 504.) An inability of the eyes to maintain visual fixation as they are turned from side to side (in other words, jerking or bouncing) is known as horizontal gaze nystagmus, or HGN.” People v. Ojeda,225 Cal.App.3d 404, 406, 275 Cal.Rptr. 472, 472-73 (1990).

The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test is one of the tests law enforcement officers perform either in the field or at the police station when they suspect an individual is under the influence of alcohol or some other drug. The prosecution often introduces the results of the HGN test in DWI prosecutions. This test is based on the theory “that alcohol and drug use increases the frequency and amplitude of HGN and cause it to occur at a smaller angle of deviation from forward.” Although alcohol and drug use may increase the HGN, it can also be produced by other pathological, chemical or natural causes.” 3 Barbara E. Bergman and Nancy Hollander, Wharton’s Criminal Evidence § 13:49 (15th ed. 2009).


The Full-Text Motion For Discretionary Review [Frog Gravy Legal Case]

December 22, 2011

For those of you following the legal case, the 26-page Kentucky Court of Appeals Published Opinion Affirming is available online at the Kentucky Court of Appeals site. Other documents, such as this one, while they are in the public domain, are not readily available. (One must file an open records request)

I am also going to make the opening brief and response available here, online, for the public. This first document is a Motion For Discretionary Review. It was filed with the Supreme Court in June of this year (2011). The attorney is The Honorable Julia K. Pearson.

COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY
SUPREME COURT OF KENTUCKY
FILE NO.2011-SC-000272

RACHEL LEATHERMAN MOVANT

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY RESPONDENT

MOTION FOR DISCRETIONARY REVIEW

The Movant, Rachel Leatherman, comes by counsel and pursuant to CR 76.20, requests this Court to grant discretionary review of the decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Leatherman v. Commonwealth, 2008-CA-0849, which was decided on January 21, 2011. The Petition for Rehearing was denied on April 12, 2011. Ms. Leatherman explains the grounds for this motion below.

THE JURISDICTIONAL FACTS

1. The Movant’s name is Rachel Leatherman. Counsel for Movant is Hon. Julia K. Pearson, Assistant Public Advocate, Department of Public Advocacy, 100 Fair Oaks Lane, Suite 302, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.

2. The Respondent is the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Counsel for Respondent is Hon. Jack Conway, Attorney General, Commonwealth of Kentucky, Criminal Appellate Division, 1024 Capital Center Drive, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.

3. The Court of Appeals finally disposed of Movant’s case on April 12, 2011.

4. Neither Movant nor Respondent has a Petition for Rehearing or a Motion for Reconsideration pending in the Court of Appeals. The Petition for Rehearing filed in this case was denied on April 12, 2011.

THE MATERIAL FACTS

Sometime in the evening of June 28, 2006, a man identifying himself as Vernon Wilkey, residing on Queensway Drive in Paducah, called 911 and said, “there is a lady in a dark blue looks like a Buick LeSabre. I’d say it’s a late 80s, early 90s model. And I’ve got a license plate number. But she’s out here walking around in my neighbor’s yard. . . and writing stuff down and she’d talked to him and mentioned something about tar heroin and all that stuff.” Wilkey said the woman driving the car was white and that the vehicle had Washington state plates. Wilkey testified at trial that she “didn’t seem like she was really all together there.” He did not give the 911 operator that piece of information.

McCracken County Deputy Sheriff Eddie McGuire testified at trial that he received a dispatch about a suspicious person on Queensway Drive. He thought it took fifteen to twenty minutes to arrive on scene, where he looked for a car with Washington state license plates, but was unsuccessful. At the suppression hearing, McGuire testified when he entered the Queensway Drive neighborhood, he did not check with Vernon Wilkey to obtain any additional information, such as what time Wilkey encountered the woman, whether Wilkey saw her leave in a particular direction, whether Wilkey thought she was under the influence or whether the woman had said where she was going. McGuire testified that he spoke with Wilkey and took his written statement the next day, after he had arrested Ms. Leatherman.

At trial, the deputy testified that he had just come through the Metropolis Lake intersection when he saw a car with its left turn signal flashing. McGuire admitted that he did not know how fast he was driving as he drew alongside the vehicle.

“As I was passing the vehicle, she had her left blinker on as if she was going to turn out in the passing lane, but she never did. And then as I was going to go ahead and go past her, I noticed that the license plate—it was a Washington license plate that was the description that was also given at the time of the call. So when I noticed that, I slowed down and let her go back by me and then when I pulled in behind her, she pulled over.”

After McGuire pulled in behind her, the woman pulled over to the shoulder. He thought that action was as suspicious as the woman leaving her left turn signal blinking, so he pulled over to the side and activated his emergency lights. McGuire said as he walked up to the vehicle, he noticed that the driver’s pants were unbuttoned and unzipped, but belted. Even so, Rachel Leatherman “promptly” handed her identification and proof of insurance to Deputy McGuire. He ordered her to get out of the car and stand behind it. McGuire said she had no problem getting out of the car. In fact, he said that if she had been unsteady on her feet or slurring her speech, he would have documented it in his citation.

Sometime after that, Deputy Jason Walters came to the scene. The men searched the car for contraband, but came up with nothing. Later, Officer Gretchen Dawes arrived and searched Leatherman. Before she arrived, however, McGuire testified that Leatherman had emptied her two front pockets. He could not remember whether Leatherman had buttoned her pants at any time during the automobile and personal searches.

Neither Officer Dawes nor Deputy Walters testified at the suppression hearing. However, as her testimony at trial showed, Dawes’ search was not a simple Terry pat-down. Dawes searched the inside rear pockets of Rachel Leatherman’s jeans and made her open the front of her pants so she could search Leatherman’s crotch. Dawes made Leatherman lift her shirt so she could search her breasts for concealed controlled substances. Even McGuire conceded that Dawes’s search was “thorough.”

Deputy McGuire agreed that “[u]nder the circumstances, [Dawes] was not only looking for weapons but also looking for possible drugs,” but found none. McGuire did not see Dawes search Leatherman’s back pockets, but he assumed she did so as part of that thorough search. Finally, McGuire said that en route to Lourdes Hospital, he did not see Leatherman moving in any sort of fashion to indicate that she was trying to hide something.

A thorough search by a trained police officer would presumably “sanitize” a suspect before she is handcuffed and placed into a police car. In other words, how is it possible that Rachel Leatherman held onto a baggie with rock cocaine through a search of her vehicle and her person? Officer Dawes offered her speculation at trial. She said she was told only that the deputies wanted a female officer to search a female suspect. The deputies did not tell her anything about the case such as whether she was supposed to conduct a Terry pat-down or the more thorough search incident to arrest. Interestingly, Dawes said that if she had prior knowledge that Leatherman had drugs on her person, she would have done an even more thorough search.

Deputy McGuire and the two backup officers searched Ms. Leatherman’s person and her car for about 1.25 hours. That search yielded no illegal drugs, no drug residue and no paraphernalia. Despite the fact that Leatherman had not committed a traffic violation and a PBT (Portable Breath Test) registered no alcohol, McGuire arrested her for Driving under the Influence and transported her to Lourdes Hospital for a blood draw.

Subsequent analysis found no alcohol or drugs in Leatherman’s blood.

McGuire was certain Leatherman was wearing a watch, but only thought it was on her right arm. McGuire’s story was that as he assisted her out of the car at the hospital, he noticed that Leatherman had dropped her watch and a small baggie containing a substance consistent with a rock of cocaine. He did not confront Leatherman at that time. McGuire was unsure how long the two remained at the hospital. Once he arrived at the McCracken County Jail and booked Ms. Leatherman, he ran a field test for heroin. That test came back negative.

Rachel Leatherman was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, Tampering with Physical Evidence and Driving an Automobile under the Influence. She was convicted on all three charges and sentenced to eight years.

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

1. A trial court shall make written findings of fact and conclusions of law after holding a suppression hearing. RCr 9.78. Is it appropriate for a trial court to render findings of fact and conclusions of law after trial, using information gained at the trial, but not the suppression hearing?

The panel concluded:

Based upon the 911 call, during which the caller described a woman. . . who was committing criminal activity, and the undisputed fact that Leatherman pulled to the side of the road and stopped before Deputy McGuire activated his emergency lights, we hold that there was no constitutional violation in the investigatory stop.

Leatherman v. Commonwealth, 2011 WL 181251, *7 (Ky. App., January 21, 2011).

Walking around a neighborhood and saying the word “heroin” are not criminal acts.

The trial court’s second conclusion of law was that: “[t]he combination of a report of an unknown person, driving a Washington state licensed vehicle in a Paducah, Kentucky residential area, asking about tar heroin, later observed to signal a left turn but pull off the roadway in the right, constitutes reasonable suspicion to investigate and possibly cite for improper signal. TR 222.

The court’s third conclusion was that “[a] report of suspicious activity by a person who identifies himself by name, phone number and address is presumptively reliable.” TR 222. These conclusions came not after the suppression hearing, but after the trial.

The court should have relied only upon the information in the 911 call, not evidence it heard at trial, in order to decide whether Deputy McGuire had reasonable suspicion to stop Rachel Leatherman. United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221 (1985).

The information in the particular 911 call left a good deal to be desired. Vernon Wilkey did not tell the dispatcher that Leatherman was asking “where may I get black tar heroin” “do you have any black tar heroin” or even “does a drug dealer live in this neighborhood”? He simply told the dispatcher that she “mentioned” tar heroin. All Deputy McGuire had was a dispatch that a woman was walking around a neighborhood in McCracken County and mentioned tar heroin. McGuire admitted at the suppression hearing: “[a]t the time we responded, the only information that we had was the fact that she had come up to his house and asked about heroin.” TR 155. He admitted that he talked to Wilkey after he arrested Leatherman. Id., emphasis added. He admitted at trial that he had no idea when the woman had made contact with the neighbor (or Wilkey, for that matter). VR 4; 11/27/2006; 14:05:04.

The Fourth Amendment requires that reasonable suspicion comes only when the police believe criminal activity is currently afoot. See Joshua v. DeWitt, 341 F.3d 430, 446 (6th Cir. 2003), citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 (1968); emphasis in original. Was the woman “asking about 218A” doing a survey for the local newspaper or television station? Doing surveys for local media is a perfectly legal action. Was she a teacher doing a survey for a local high school civics or social studies class? Doing those sorts of surveys is also a legal act. But McGuire jumped to the conclusion that Rachel Leatherman had to be committing some sort of crime because she was talking to people in a neighborhood and mentioned tar heroin. Unfortunately for McGuire, in Terry, supra, the Supreme Court made clear that the officer’s reasonable suspicion must be made from the facts and the “specific reasonable inferences he is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his experience.” 392 U.S. at 21; emphasis added. McGuire’s suspicion was not based upon reasonable inferences from the facts he had at hand.

The panel ignored United States and Kentucky Supreme Court precedent in finding those facts were enough predictive information with which Deputy McGuire could arrest Ms. Leatherman. In Florida v. J.L., Florida officers received a phone call that a young, black male who was wearing a plaid shirt and standing with two other males at a bus stop was carrying a gun. Officers arrived and found the young man wearing a plaid shirt standing at the bus stop and arrested him. The United States Supreme Court found that the tip gave police no independent reason to suspect that J.L. was up to a nefarious act. 529 U.S. 266, 274 (2000).
In Collins v. Commonwealth, this Court found that a tip claiming that a man driving a white Chevrolet Blazer with a certain license plate threw alcohol at another vehicle parked at a gas station was likewise not enough information that something criminal was afoot.

As in J.L., the tip provided in this matter contained no predictive information; rather, it consisted almost entirely of information readily available to a casual bystander, such as Appellant’s license plate number, his direction of travel, and the make and model of his vehicle. Thus, Trooper Oliver was left with no predictive information to corroborate, or other means by which to verify that the tipster had intimate knowledge of any illegal behavior. 142 S.W.3d 113, 116 (Ky. 2004).

If the panel’s Orwellian holding remains valid, the simple acts of “walking around” in a neighbor’s yard, “writing stuff down” and merely uttering the words tar and heroin, without any further indication of intent to buy or sell, then, in contravention of federal and state case law, the police are absolutely free to engage in fishing expeditions.

Moreover, any person—axe to grind or not–who gives his name and address may pick up a phone and report some “crime” and have that report be deemed reliable. That analysis flies in the face of J.L., supra; Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491 (1983), Hensley, supra; and Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

“Hunch” that Rachel Leatherman possessed a controlled substance did not constitute suspicion for a stop or reasonable cause for an arrest

The trial court’s first conclusion of law was that “[t]he deputy did not conduct a stop of Defendant’s vehicle. Defendant pulled off the roadway and stopped. The deputy then pulled in behind her and activated his emergency lights so as to investigate.” TR 222. This is incorrect as a matter of law and is unsupported by the evidence.

Deputy McGuire admitted at the suppression hearing that he “was going to” stop Leatherman “anyway” when she pulled to the shoulder. TR 165. He admitted, “I suppose she assumed I was going to stop her, so she went ahead and pulled over, anyway.” He admitted that Leatherman’s actions “were a safe assumption” that he was going to stop her. TR 166; emphasis added. McGuire conceded that it was possible Leatherman had activated her turn signal, but decided against moving into the left lane when she saw the cruiser come up in her rear view mirror. VR 4; 11/27/2006; 14:15:05. McGuire had already testified that he was driving faster than the Leatherman vehicle. That Leatherman did not move to the left lane and collide with the cruiser is evidence that she noticed him coming up on her side.

Yet, McGuire, the trial court and the panel found it suspicious that Leatherman speedily obeyed the demands of KRS 189.930, which mandates that emergency vehicles are to be given the right of way, by the operator of the motor vehicle “driv[ing] to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection. . .”

The panel absolutely ignored Garcia v. Commonwealth, in which a member of the panel had found that the police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver who “quickly changed to the right lane” as a Kentucky State Police Trooper approached the vehicle. 185 S.W.3d 658, 660-661 (Ky. App. 2006). The panel found that “Garcia’s nervousness, lane change, failure to make eye contact, ‘death grip’ on the steering wheel, and out-of-state license plate. . . . describe a substantial number of drivers on our highways.” Further, the panel said, “[i]f we were to accept the Commonwealth’s argument, ordinary law abiding citizens could be subjected to a stop by police based upon routine driving habits.” Id., at 665.

Contrast the behavior in Garcia with that in the case at bar. According to the officers in each case, both Leatherman and Garcia appeared nervous and changed lanes and had out-of-state license plates. The difference is that Leatherman driving with a turn signal blinking was somehow seen as suspicious behavior, rather than the routine (for some drivers) driving habit that it is.

Exculpatory scientific tests trumped by “glassy eyes” and an improper HGN

As a result of the panel’s opinion, exculpatory blood test results are no longer good evidence. The panel used as part of its reasoning for affirming Rachel Leatherman’s convictions that she “failed the HGN test, which reveals intoxication by alcohol or some other drug”. Even assuming arguendo that the other indicators had been present (addressed infra), McGuire improperly administered the test.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned police officers to position DUI suspects so that they do not face blinking cruiser lights or oncoming traffic because the lights can create a false nystagmus (optokinetic nystagmus). The field video shows McGuire positioned Rachel Leatherman facing the blinking cruiser lights and oncoming traffic. Moreover, the panel ignored the fact that Metoprolol, which Leatherman told McGuire she was taking for hypertension, can cause nystagmus. The test was neither administered properly nor documented. For the panel to rely on this so-called “failed” test in order to affirm Leatherman’s conviction is the height of arbitrariness and incorrect legal analysis.

The panel noted that his “observation of [Rachel] Leatherman’s glassy eyes and odd behavior coupled with her admission that she was taking prescription medication” was sufficient to provide Deputy McGuire with probable cause to arrest her for DUI. Leatherman, supra, at *9.

The panel absolutely ignored McGuire’s admissions that Leatherman drove in compliance with traffic laws. It even cited McGuire’s testimony that Leatherman was neither driving erratically nor weaving! Id. Leatherman produced her license and registration quickly after he asked for them. Her eyes were not watery or bloodshot. Her pupils were not pinpoint or dilated. She did not have a runny nose as is common with some cocaine users. She did not have scabs or needle marks, also common with intravenous drug users. She was not coughing or short of breath; she was not sneezing or sweating. She did not complain of nausea or chest pains. Her face was not flushed. She was alert.

Moreover, McGuire admitted at the suppression hearing that the HGN result by itself could not provide probable cause. VR 4; 11/27/2006; 14:21:45. Neither does nervous behavior.

The panel also absolutely ignored United States Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit case law which establishes that nervous, evasive behavior is the standard to justify reasonable suspicion, not simple nervousness or restlessness. Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 124, (2000); Joshua v. DeWitt, 341 F.3d 430 (6th Cir. 2003).

One need only look at several Supreme Court cases regarding drug smuggling at the United States-Mexico border to determine that evasive behavior is the key. United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 885 (1975) (“The driver’s behavior may be relevant, as erratic driving or obvious attempts to evade officers can support a reasonable suspicion.”); Florida v. Rodriguez, 469 U.S. 1, 6 (1984) (“[T]he three confederates … had spoken furtively to one another. One was twice overheard urging the others to ‘get out of here.’ Respondent’s strange movements in his attempt to evade the officers aroused further justifiable suspicion….”); United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S.1, 5, 8-9, (1989) (noting that “[Respondent] appeared to be very nervous and was looking all around the waiting area,” but that “one taking an evasive path through an airport might be seeking to avoid a confrontation with an angry acquaintance or with a creditor”).

The ultimate irony for this case is that after the hour and one-half Deputy McGuire held Rachel Leatherman on the side of the road, he found nothing illegal. The panel stated as much when it said, “consent searches of her automobile and her person did not reveal any heroin or any other illegal substance.” Leatherman, supra, 2011 WL 181251, at *7.

Effects of Clonazepam/Klonopin

As the final rung of its finding that McGuire had probable cause to arrest Ms. Leatherman for DUI, the panel cited to “the product information for Klonopin. . . .[which] states that patients taking that medication “should be cautioned about operating hazardous machinery, including automobiles, until they are reasonably certain the Klonopin therapy does not affect them adversely.” Leatherman, supra, at *9.

Unfortunately, that information is also after-acquired and not something Deputy McGuire knew at the scene. The trial court made the same error when it noted her statement that “she was taking medication that would cause her to fail the test, constitutes probable cause to arrest for DUI.” TR 222.

Moreover, the panel and the trial court absolutely ignored KSP lab tech Ryan Johnson’s testimony that Klonopin itself could cause “positive” HGN signs. VR 4; 1/22/2008; 2:59:55. The panel (and the trial court) also absolutely ignored Johnson’s testimony that even if he had the equipment to test Rachel Leatherman’s blood for the presence of Klonopin, the simple presence of the drug was not an indicator that the person was under the influence such that she could be charged with, let alone convicted of, driving under the influence of an intoxicant. Id., 3:03:36.

Conclusion

The panel ignored the facts and law of this case in affirming Rachel Leatherman’s convictions for driving under the influence. Moreover, the trial court ignored the facts and the law, including the dictates of RCr 9.38, when it used information gained from trial testimony to concoct a third set of findings of fact and conclusions of law. This Court must grant discretionary review.

2. The panel erred when it found the trial court properly granted the government’s motion in limine which prohibited defense counsel from mentioning that Rachel Leatherman asked Deputy McGuire to retrieve her watch from the backseat.

The panel found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it did not admit Leatherman’s statements to Deputy McGuire from the back of his cruiser. The panel said, “the trial court indicated that it would permit Leatherman to testify to her statement regarding the watch had she opted to take the stand in her own defense.” Leatherman, supra, at *10. That finding is inconsistent with the trial court’s ruling that Leatherman’s statements were inadmissible, self-serving hearsay. VR 1; 1/22/2008; 8:56:24.

In light of the government’s announcement that it believed “801A(b)” prevented trial counsel from broaching the subject, this Court cannot seriously believe that had Leatherman testified, “I asked Deputy McGuire to look for my watch,” the government would not have been strenuously objecting on hearsay grounds. But why should Leatherman be forced to give up her right to remain silent to an admissible statement?

The panel next found, “Leatherman did not attempt to impeach Deputy McGuire’s prior statements regarding discovery of the watch and drugs through laying a proper foundation.” Leatherman, supra, at *10. The panel ignored trial testimony. In his cross-examination, defense counsel asked Deputy McGuire:

DC: How is it that you came to find the watch?

DM: Whenever she got out of the backseat, that’s when I found it.

DC: She actually asked you about the watch, didn’t she?

VR 2; 1/22/2008; 5:40:32. The government immediately objected.

It is hard to fathom what else counsel was doing besides beginning to lay a foundation so that he could cross-examine McGuire when he was prevented from doing so by the government’s objection and the trial court sustaining it. The panel focused on Leatherman’s alleged failure to impeach McGuire to the exclusion of the impeaching material to be discovered.

It absolutely ignored just how Deputy McGuire’s testimony changed in the months between the preliminary hearing, the suppression hearing and trial. At the preliminary hearing, McGuire’s testimony was that the watch and baggie were not in plain view. In fact, he testified that he saw the baggie only when he moved the seat. TPH 11.

By the time the suppression hearing came around, the baggie and Ms. Leatherman’s watch were in plain view next to her in the back seat. VR 4; 11/27/2006; 14:25:55. Interestingly, he also said Leatherman had told him before they went into the hospital that she had dropped her watch. Id., 14:28:15. At trial, McGuire testified that as he assisted Ms. Leatherman out of the cruiser at Lourdes Hospital, he saw a baggie with what appeared to be a rock of cocaine lying underneath her watch in the seatbelt crack of the back seat. VR 2; 1/22/2008; 4:06:20.

The panel could not then—this Court cannot now—reconcile McGuire’s conflicting accounts regarding whether he saw the baggie and watch in plain view or not in plain view. McGuire had been a member of the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department for four and one-half years. VR 1; 1/22/2008; 14:08:45. Presumably, he was familiar with the meaning of the phrase “plain view.” Yet, his story about plain view progressed over the months.

Finally, the panel opined that the outcome of the case would not have been changed because of the “strength of the rest of the testimony that was introduced, including the close proximity of the watch and the drugs as well as the search of the area prior to Leatherman’s placement in the cruiser.” Leatherman, supra, at *10. It is hard to fathom how testimony which changes in material ways from preliminary hearing to trial is “strong”.

The panel absolutely ignored Gretchen Dawes’s testimony about how she searched Rachel Leatherman’s person. Prior to Dawes’s arrival, McGuire testified, Rachel Leatherman emptied her front pockets. VR 4; 11/27/2006; 14:25:36.

Dawes searched the inside rear pockets of Leatherman’s jeans and made her open the front of her pants so she could search Leatherman’s crotch. She made Leatherman lift her shirt so she could search her breasts for concealed controlled substances. TR 26. Even McGuire conceded at the suppression hearing that Dawes’s search was “thorough.” VR 4; 11/27/2006; 14:25:40.

Yet, the panel believed the impossibility that Rachel Leatherman held onto a baggie with rock cocaine through a search of her vehicle and her person. Assuming for sake of argument that Leatherman did so, where did she conceal the baggie? As was clearly seen on the dashboard camera (the recording is a part of the exhibits in the file housed with the Clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals), McGuire had her open her hands up together, at one time—she could not have held the baggie in one hand, then the other. Dawes opened her jeans zipper—Leatherman could not have concealed the baggie in her crotch. Dawes had her raise her blouse—Leatherman could not have concealed the baggie in her bra. The search also begs the question of how Leatherman retrieved the baggie–in handcuffs–without moving enough to make at least one of the officers suspicious.

Conclusion

The panel ignored the facts and law of this case. This Court must grant discretionary review.

CONCLUSION

The panel ignored clear precedent and the facts of this case in affirming Rachel Leatherman’s convictions. Moreover, the panel also ignored the fact that the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law changed over three iterations, one coming after it had heard all the trial testimony. Just as Deputy McGuire used after-acquired information, so, too, did the trial court. This Court must grant discretionary review.

Respectfully submitted,

JULIA K. PEARSON

NOTICE

Please take notice that the foregoing Motion for Discretionary Review will be filed in the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court on this 17th day of June 2011.

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I hereby certify that a true and accurate copy of the foregoing Motion for Discretionary Review has been mailed, postage paid, to Hon. Jack Conway, Attorney General, 1024 Capital Center Drive, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601 and Hon. Samuel Givens, Jr., Clerk of the Court of Appeals, 360 Democrat Drive, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601, this 17th day of June 2011.

Julia K. Pearson


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