Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Commonwealth v. Maurice Gause

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

May 24, 2017

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA Appellee
v.
ARTEE LINARD MAURICE GAUSE Appellant

         Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence December 2, 2014 In the Court of Common Pleas of York County Criminal Division at No(s): CP-67-CR-0008850-2013

          BEFORE: BENDER, P.J.E., BOWES, J., PANELLA, J., LAZARUS, J., OTT, J., STABILE, J., DUBOW, J., MOULTON, J., and RANSOM, J.

          OPINION

          LAZARUS, J.

         Artee Linard Maurice Gause appeals from the judgment of sentence, entered in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, following his convictions of driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance ("DUI") - general impairment, [1] DUI - controlled substance, [2] and driving without stop lights (brake lights) in violation of period for requiring lighted lamps.[3] After careful review, we vacate the judgment of sentence and discharge Gause.

         The trial court summarized the facts of this case as follows.

[O]n September 25, 2013, at around 1:20 in the morning, Officer [Erika] Eiker encountered a vehicle lacking illuminated taillights. [4] During the ensuing stop, the officer asked [Gause] for his license and registration and questioned where [Gause] was coming from. [Gause] provided the requested items without any fumbling and informed the officer that he was traveling from a friend's home[.] Officer Eiker smelled alcohol and [Gause] stated that he had consumed one 12-ounce can of beer. [Gause] then completed field sobriety tests with varying levels of success.[5] On cross-examination, defense counsel elicited from Officer Eiker that during the encounter she neither smelled nor saw marijuana. Moreover, the officer testified that [Gause's] speech was not slurred and that, outside of the field sobriety tests, [Gause's] balance and coordination were fine. Officer Eiker went on to testify that she gives the Romberg Test when she suspects marijuana usage because she associates eyelid tremors, as in this case, with marijuana usage. . . . [T]hough [Gause] submitted himself to a drug recognition evaluation, he refused chemical testing.

Trial Court Opinion, 4/16/15 at 5-6 (citations to record omitted).

         Following trial, a jury convicted Gause of the aforementioned charges. The trial court merged the DUI convictions for sentencing purposes and sentenced Gause to a term of 5 years of intermediate punishment, including 45 days to be served in county prison and 90 days of house arrest, and imposed a $1, 500 fine, plus costs of prosecution. On the summary offense of driving without brake lights, the court imposed a $25 fine, plus the costs of prosecution. Gause filed post-sentence motions, which the trial court denied. This timely appeal followed.

         Gause raises the following issues for our review:

1. Whether Officer Eiker's opinion testimony that body tremors and eyelid tremors are indicative of marijuana impairment should have been excluded?
2. Whether Officer Eiker should have been denied the ability to testify as to her opinion that body tremors and eyelid tremors are indicative of marijuana impairment when the trial court ruled prior to the beginning of trial that the Commonwealth's witnesses could not render an opinion?
3. Whether Officer Eiker's and Officer George's testimony regarding eyelid and body tremors should have been excluded even if they did not render an opinion because the testimony was irrelevant without their opinion?
4. Whether there was insufficient evidence to support the [j]ury's finding of guilt on count 2, DUI-[c]ontrolled [s]ubstance, because the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence that Mr. Gause was incapable of safely operating an automobile because of drug consumption?
5. Whether there was insufficient evidence to support the [j]ury's finding of guilt on count 1, DUI, [g]eneral [i]mpairment, when Officer George testified that he had excluded alcohol as a factor of impairment?
6. Whether the [j]ury's verdict as to count 2 is against the weight of the evidence when there was no testimony as to the drug(s) that Mr. Gause was supposedly impaired by?
7. Whether the verdict as to count 1 is against the weight of the evidence when Officer George had specifically excluded alcohol impairment?

Appellant's Brief at 6-7.

         Gause first argues that the trial court committed reversible error when it permitted Officer Eiker to offer her opinion that eyelid and body tremors are indicative of marijuana impairment. We agree. Officer Eiker's lay opinion was incompetent and the trial court should have excluded it as inadmissible under Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence 701.

         Prior to the start of trial, the court ruled that Officer Eiker could testify to her observations of body and eyelid tremors "but not to any conclusions as to what those tremors signified." N.T., 10/9/14, at 13. During trial, the court reversed its earlier ruling and, over defense counsel's objection, permitted Officer Eiker to attribute Gause's body and eyelid tremors to marijuana impairment. Officer Eiker testified that, in her opinion, Gause was under the influence of a controlled substance, and that she formed this opinion, in part, on body and eyelid tremors:

Q: [B]ased on your training, your experience, your education, your observations of [Gause], performance on those tests, did you form an opinion at the time of your contact with [Gause] whether or not you believed he was impaired?
A: Yes. At the time of my contact with him, just, you know, the totality of everything, you know, his behavior, the body tremors, the eyelid tremors, the clues on the walk and turn, you know, his poor perception of time with the Romberg balance test, and ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.