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Commonwealth v. Teems

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

June 19, 2013

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, Appellee
v.
JAMES ROBERT TEEMS, Appellant

Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence July 11, 2012 In the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-28-CR-0000514-2011

BEFORE: STEVENS, P.J., FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., and OLSON, J.

OPINION

STEVENS, P.J.

This is an appeal from the judgment of sentence entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County after a jury convicted Appellant on two counts of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(a)(1) (General impairment) and 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802(b) (High rate of alcohol). Sentenced to sixty months of intermediate punishment, with the first twelve months to be served in county jail, Appellant herein contends that the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence at trial to support either charge. We affirm.

The relevant facts and procedural history of the matter are as follows:
At trial on this matter, the Commonwealth presented only one witness, [Pennsylvania State] Trooper Craig Finkle [of the Chambersburg Barracks]. No other witness testified, and [Appellant] presented no evidence. Through his testimony, Trooper Finkle provided the following facts: On December 12, 2010 at 2:00 a.m., [Pennsylvania State Police] was dispatched to a broken down vehicle in a northbound[, right] lane of Interstate 81[, just before the Exit 17 northbound ramp. The vehicle was in the right lane, not on the shoulder.] N.T. 4/27/12 at 23. Upon arrival, Trooper Finkle [riding with fellow Trooper Dubbs] noted that the vehicle's brake lights were on. He also noted possible damage to the vehicle. [Appellant] was seated in the driver's seat.
[The trooper noticed damage to the vehicle, which at that point had one or more wheels riding only on rims, and asked Appellant about what he may have hit and at what location. Appellant, however, was "unsure what he hit, if he hit anything and where it was at. N.T. at 24.]
Once [Appellant] was out of the vehicle, the trooper noted an odor of alcohol on [him], as well as slurred and slow speech. The trooper also testified that [Appellant] had trouble with his footing and with his hearing, but that this could have been medically related. Trooper did not perform the standard field sobriety tests because of the possible medical condition of [Appellant] and because their location on the interstate would make it unsafe. He did attempt to administer a portable breath test, however, [Appellant] failed the test five times because he was unable to follow instructions.
Trooper Finkle suspected that [Appellant] was intoxicated and arrested him. [Appellant] was transported to Chambersburg Hospital and chemical test[ing] was administered at 3:00 a.m. The lab results indicated that [Appellant] had a blood alcohol content of 0.143%.
Following the close of evidence, [Appellant moved for a judgment of acquittal based upon the sufficiency of the evidence presented. The court heard argument on the motion and denied the requested relief, finding that sufficient evidence was presented to allow the case to go to the jury for decision, which it subsequently did.

Trial Court Opinion dated 11/1/12 at 1-2.

As noted supra, the jury convicted Appellant on both counts, and the court sentenced Appellant to 60 months' intermediate punishment, with the first 12 months to be served in Franklin County Jail. This appeal followed.

Appellant raises the following issue for our review:

[WAS] SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE [] PRESENTED AT THE TRIAL OF JAMES TEEMS TO SUSTAIN A CONVICTION OF DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL, HIGH RATE OF ALCOHOL UNDER 75 PA.C.S. ยง 3802(b) OR DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL, ...

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