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Caissie v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 6, 2018

JASON CAISSIE A/K/A JASON CULLEN CAISSIE APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/31/2016

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED SMITH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. STANLEY ALEX SOREY TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JASON CAISSIE (PRO SE)

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: DAVID GARNER

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND TINDELL, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. The Raleigh Municipal Court found Jason Caissie guilty of operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license and failing to maintain or provide proof of insurance. See Miss. Code Ann. §§ 63-1-5 & -7 & 63-15-4 (Rev. 2013). Caissie unsuccessfully appealed his two misdemeanor convictions to Smith County Circuit Court. On appeal from the circuit court's judgment affirming his convictions, Caissie raises numerous issues, which we restate as follows: (1) whether numerous due-process violations rendered the municipal court's judgment void; (2) whether the circuit court erred by allowing an appeal from a void judgment; (3) whether the circuit court erred by allowing his prosecution based on "an illegal roadblock and false arrest"; (4) whether the circuit court erred by failing to grant him discovery; (5) whether the circuit court erred by quashing the subpoenas he issued to the Commissioners of the Mississippi Department of Revenue and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety; (6) whether the circuit court erred by failing to accept his plea of "non assumpsit by way of confession and avoidance"; (7) whether error occurred because the prosecution failed to provide the statutory law he was charged with violating; (8) whether error occurred because the prosecution failed to provide him with a charging instrument; (9) whether the circuit court erred by denying his request to voir dire his court-appointed armchair counsel; (10) whether the circuit court erred by refusing his request for "next friend" counsel; (11) whether error occurred because the prosecution failed to answer or address several of his pretrial filings; and (12) whether the circuit court erred by excluding an audio recording he attempted to admit into evidence.

         ¶2. Finding no error in the circuit court's judgment, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶3. While driving through the town of Raleigh, Mississippi (the Town), on April 25, 2015, Caissie encountered a safety checkpoint conducted by Officer Ricky Hand of the Raleigh Police Department. Officer Hand asked Caissie to produce a valid driver's license and proof of insurance. When Caissie failed to comply with the request, Officer Hand arrested Caissie and issued him one ticket for operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license and a separate ticket for failing to maintain or provide proof of insurance.

         ¶4. The municipal court found Caissie guilty of both offenses. Caissie then appealed to the circuit court, which tried the charges de novo. Following a bench trial on May 12, 2016, the circuit court found Caissie guilty of both charges and ordered him to pay a $500 fine for each offense, for a total fine of $1, 000. Caissie filed an unsuccessful new-trial motion. Aggrieved by the circuit court's judgment, Caissie now appeals his misdemeanor convictions to this Court. As needed, we will relate any additional facts during our discussion of the issues Caissie raises on appeal.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5. The appellate courts affirm a trial judge's decision in a bench trial where substantial, credible, and reasonable evidence supports the decision. Parish v. State, 176 So.3d 781, 785 (¶13) (Miss. 2015). We only reverse the findings of a trial judge sitting without a jury when the trial judge was clearly wrong or committed manifest error. Harvey v. State, 195 So.3d 231, 232 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether numerous due-process violations rendered the municipal court's judgment void.

         II. Whether the circuit court erred by allowing an appeal from a void judgment.

         ¶6. Caissie first contends that numerous due-process violations occurred prior to and during his municipal-court trial and rendered the municipal court's judgment void.[1] Related to this argument, Caissie asserts that the circuit court committed reversible error by allowing a void judgment to form the basis of an appeal.

         ¶7. Uniform Rule of Circuit and County Court 5.01 establishes that a direct appeal from justice or municipal court to circuit court "shall be by trial de novo."[2] This remains true even where the appellant pled guilty in justice or municipal court. Jones v. State, 972 So.2d 579, 580 (¶3) (Miss. 2008). Even if defects exist in the justice or municipal court's judgment, such defects amount to harmless error when a defendant appeals and receives a trial de novo. Stidham v. State, 750 So.2d 1238, 1245 (¶31) (Miss. 1999); see also Hitt v. State, 149 Miss. 718, 718, 115 So. 879, 883 (1928) (recognizing that a de novo trial in circuit court "was as if there had never been a trial before a justice of the peace, and was effectual to correct any and all errors committed by the justice of the peace either as to a ruling of law, or as to a ruling on facts" (emphasis added)). Because Caissie appealed his misdemeanor convictions and received a de novo trial in circuit court, we find no merit to his claims regarding the alleged defects in and the validity of the municipal court's judgment against him.

         III.Whether the circuit court erred by allowing Caissie's prosecutionbased on "an illegal ...


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