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Jefferson v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 18, 2014

CLARENCE DWAYNE JEFFERSON A/K/A CLARENCE D. JEFFERSON A/K/A CLARENCE JEFFERSON, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, APPELLEE

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/18/2013.

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MARION COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PRENTISS GREENE HARRELL. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: CONVICTED OF FELONY DUI AND SENTENCED AS A HABITUAL OFFENDER TO FIVE YEARS IN THE CUSTODY OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, WITH ONE YEAR SUSPENDED AND FOUR YEARS TO SERVE, AND ORDERED TO PAY A $1,000 FINE AND $1,000 TO THE MARION COUNTY PUBLIC DEFENDER'S FUND.

FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER, BY: BENJAMIN ALLEN SUBER.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: STEPHANIE BRELAND WOOD.

BEFORE LEE, C.J., CARLTON AND FAIR, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY

Page 262

FAIR, J.

¶1. Clarence Jefferson was convicted of felony DUI, which required proof that he was driving while intoxicated and that he had two prior DUI convictions within the last five years. Jefferson contends that the evidence against him was insufficient in both respects. We disagree, so we affirm his conviction and sentence.

DISCUSSION

1. The Sufficiency of the Evidence Test

¶2. When the sufficiency of the evidence is challenged, the issue before this Court on appeal is whether the evidence shows " beyond a reasonable doubt that [the] accused committed the act charged, and that he did so under such circumstances that every element of the offense existed." Bush v. State, 895 So.2d 836, 843 (¶ 16) (Miss. 2005) (citation omitted). " [W]here the evidence fails to meet this test it is insufficient to support a conviction." Id.

¶3. But, as the United States Supreme Court has explained, a court should not " ask itself whether it believes that the evidence established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 315, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)) (emphasis in original; internal quotation marks omitted). " Instead, the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light

Page 263

most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 315).

¶4. A reviewing court must reverse the conviction and render a judgment of acquittal if " the facts and inferences . . . point in favor of the defendant on any [one] element of the offense with sufficient force that reasonable men could not have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

2. The Definition of Felony DUI

¶5. The crime of felony DUI is defined by statute. Jefferson was charged under Mississippi Code Annotated section 63-11-30 (Rev. 2013), which at the time of the alleged offense provided in relevant part:

(1) It is unlawful for any person to drive or otherwise operate a vehicle within this state who (a) is under the influence of intoxicating liquor; [or] . . . (c) has an alcohol concentration of eight one-hundredths percent (.08%) or more for persons who are above the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages under state law . . . .

While the first and second DUI offenses are misdemeanors with a lesser punishment, Jefferson was charged under subsection (2)(c), which makes it a felony to commit a third or subsequent DUI within a five-year period (quoted in relevant part):

[F]or any third or subsequent conviction of any person violating subsection (1) of this section, the offenses being committed within a period of five (5) years, such person shall be guilty of a felony and fined not less than Two Thousand Dollars ($2,000.00) nor more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), shall serve not less than one (1) year nor more than five (5) years in the custody of the Department of Corrections; provided, however, that for any such offense which does not result in serious injury or death to any person, any sentence of incarceration may be served in the county jail rather than in the State Penitentiary at the discretion of the circuit court judge. The minimum penalties shall not be suspended or reduced by the court and no prosecutor shall offer any suspension or sentence reduction as part of a plea bargain. The law enforcement agency shall seize the vehicle operated by any person charged with a third or subsequent violation of subsection (1) of this section, if such convicted person was driving the vehicle at the time the offense was committed. Such vehicle may be forfeited in the manner provided by Sections 63-11-49 through 63-11-53. Except as may otherwise be provided by paragraph (e) of this subsection, the Commissioner of Public Safety shall suspend the driver's license of such person for five (5) years.

¶6. Operating a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and having two convictions for DUIs committed within the last five years are both elements of the offense of felony DUI. See Williams v. State, 991 So.2d 593, 605 (¶ 40) (Miss. 2008). Since Jefferson must be acquitted if he prevails in showing insufficient evidence of either element of the offense, we will ...


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