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Oliver v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 15, 2019

CHARLES OLIVER A/K/A CHARLES RAYBURN OLIVER A/K/A CHARLES R. OLIVER APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/12/2017

          HANCOCK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. CHRISTOPHER LOUIS SCHMIDT TRIAL JUDGE:

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DONALD RAFFERTY

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: SCOTT STUART

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, C.J., WILSON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Charles Oliver appeals his first conviction of driving under the influence in the Circuit Court of Hancock County. Oliver maintains that his charging affidavit was invalid, and as a result, neither the justice court nor the circuit court had the authority to exercise jurisdiction. After review of the record, we affirm Oliver's conviction.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In October 2015, Oliver was driving what witnesses described as an antique orange Chevrolet on Highway 90. Sarah Whittenberg and a passenger were stopped at a red light when Oliver rear-ended Whittenberg's vehicle. Whittenberg testified that after the accident Oliver exited his vehicle, was belligerent, and she smelled alcohol coming from his person. Deputy Sheriff Joseph Garrett of the Hancock County Sheriff's Office testified that when he arrived at the scene of the accident, Oliver informed him that he had been consuming alcohol[1] since earlier in the afternoon. Oliver also stated that his accelerator was stuck and that it was the actual cause of the accident. Officer Nathan Corr testified that he observed Oliver using his car for support, Oliver's bloodshot eyes, and his slurred speech. Both Whittenberg and Oliver were treated at the hospital. While there, Oliver's blood was drawn, and his blood-alcohol content (BAC) registered at 0.153-which is over the legal limit.

         ¶3. Officer Garrett issued Oliver a citation for driving under the influence and then appeared before Officer Cody Moak to swear to and acknowledge Oliver's citation in justice court. In 2015, Officer Moak was promoted from sergeant to deputy and sworn in to perform the duties as a deputy justice court clerk by a justice court judge; however, his appointment had not yet been ratified by the Board of Supervisors of Hancock County.[2]

         ¶4. In October 2015, Oliver pleaded nolo contendere in justice court and perfected an appeal to the Hancock County Circuit Court the same day. Oliver then filed a pretrial motion to dismiss in the circuit court, citing lack of jurisdiction because the citation issued in justice court did not constitute a "valid and sworn affidavit." But, the circuit court denied Oliver's motion. After a bench trial, Oliver was convicted of his first offense of driving under the influence. Oliver subsequently filed a motion to vacate the judgment and a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or in the alternative, for a new trial. These motions were summarily denied. Aggrieved, Oliver appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5. "A trial judge's decision in a bench trial will be affirmed as long as it is supported by substantial, credible, and reasonable evidence." Harvey v. State, 195 So.3d 231, 232 (¶5) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). "The findings of a trial judge sitting without a jury are reversed only where the findings are manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong." Id.

         ¶6. On appeal, the standard of review for the grant or denial of a motion for directed verdict or a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is de novo. See Shepherd v. State, No. 2017-KA-00837-COA, 2018 WL 4442445, at *2 (¶8) (Miss. Ct. App. Sept. 18, 2018). The ruling court's decision regarding a motion for directed verdict or a judgment notwithstanding the verdict requires a determination that, as a matter of law, the prosecution has or has not sufficiently provided the requisite charge of evidence necessary to support a legal ...


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