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Longest v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 2, 2017

JOHN PAUL LONGEST A/K/A JOHN LONGEST APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/24/2016

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED RANKIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN III TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: V.W. CARMODY JR.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE EASON KOONCE BRENTON MATTHEW CARTER.

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          ISHEE, J.

         ¶1. In January 2015, John Longest was arrested for careless driving, open container in a motor vehicle, and driving under the influence (DUI). Longest pleaded no contest and was convicted by the Municipal Court of Florence. He appealed his convictions to the County Court of Rankin County, wherein a bench trial de novo was held, and Longest was found guilty of careless driving and DUI. Longest moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), which the county court denied. Longest then appealed to the Rankin County Circuit Court, which affirmed. He now seeks relief from this Court. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On January 23, 2015, Longest was stopped by Officer Kesha McBay of the Florence Police Department. Initially, McBay came upon Longest's Ford pickup partially stopped along the shoulder of Erlich Road in Florence, Mississippi. McBay stated that Longest's driver-side door was ajar, and as she approached his vehicle, the door closed and the vehicle began traveling toward U.S. Highway 49; Longest then entered onto Highway 49, going southbound.

         ¶3. McBay testified that after entering Highway 49, Longest "sped up very rapidly [and] swerv[ed] across the fog line to the right several times [and] then crossed the center line several times." After Longest's continuous swerving and possible endangerment to other vehicles, McBay initiated a traffic stop. After pulling over, Longest then exited his vehicle at the same time that McBay was exiting her patrol vehicle. McBay stated that as Longest exited his truck, he was grasping the door, and then "stumbled out of the vehicle" and into a traffic lane of Highway 49, but did not fall completely. McBay then radioed Sergeant Justin Holifield for assistance. McBay ordered Longest to reenter his vehicle, which he did.

         ¶4. McBay next approached Longest's vehicle from the driver side, and instructed Longest to roll down the window. McBay stated that Longest attempted to speak through the window, but that she could not understand him. She further testified that Longest was attempting to reach his wallet when he first exited the vehicle, and was still continuing to try and do so at the time she ordered the window down. After Longest rolled the window down, McBay stated she immediately experienced "a very strong odor of [an] intoxicating beverage." When asked by McBay, Longest admitted to having three beers over the course of driving back from Vicksburg, Mississippi. McBay testified that Longest's speech was extremely slurred, that she continuously had difficulty understanding him, and that she had to request him to repeat himself. McBay also observed that Longest's eyes were bloodshot. When asked by McBay to turn his vehicle off, Longest "kept fumbling and missing the ignition."

         ¶5. McBay eventually ordered Longest out of his vehicle. When Longest exited the vehicle, his pants were undone, exposing himself; he told McBay he was unaware his pants were not fastened. McBay then had Longest walk to the back of his truck. In doing so, he held onto the side of the truck for support. McBay stated she had no trouble with her balance when standing or walking on the same surface and in the same direction. When at the rear of his vehicle, McBay again asked how many beers Longest had consumed, to which he replied, "four." Longest then admitted to McBay that he knew drinking and driving was illegal and that three beers were enough to charge him with DUI. Longest was instructed to sit at the center of the bumper, which took several requests by McBay before Longest was able to comply, stumbling in the process. Throughout the duration of McBay's encounter with Longest, she noted his slurred speech.

         ¶6. After Holifield arrived on scene, he initiated field sobriety testing on Longest. Holifield testified that he, too, could smell the odor of intoxicating liquor emanating from Longest's breath when speaking. Longest also admitted to Holifield he had consumed four beers. Like McBay, Holifield observed that Longest's eyes were "glassy and red." Holifield proceeded to perform the horizontal-gaze-nystagmus (HGN) test, which he testified illustrated the following: "[C]lues of impairment as far as lack of smooth pursuit, distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation, the onset of nystagmus prior to [fourty-five] degrees, and [Longest] also showed vertical nystagmus." These conclusions resulted in Longest's failure of the HGN test. Holifield then had Longest perform the walk-and-turn test. Holifield, however, ended the walk-and-turn test prematurely for fear that Longest would injure himself due to lack of balance. Longest was then arrested and charged with careless driving, open container in a motor vehicle, and DUI. At the jail where he was taken, Longest took a breathalyzer test, which resulted in an "[i]nsufficient [s]ample."

         ¶7. At trial, Longest's wife testified on his behalf. She stated that Longest's lack of balance was the result of a right-knee injury. She further stated that Longest was "hard of hearing, " which was why McBay and Holifield had to repeat commands. In addition, Longest's wife testified that Longest worked in the vicinity of petroleum products, which had the effect of causing redness in Longest's eyes. Lastly, she stated that Longest's ...


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