Steed v. State, A11A0318, Georgia Court of Appeals, May 11, 2011. Evidence-Hearsay-Res Gestae Exception, Judges-Commenting on the evidence.
Ellery Myron Steed was arrested for DUI in Marietta, Georgia DUI. He tried his Cobb County DUI Case in front of a jury of six in the Cobb County State Court. On July 11, 2009, Steed was pulled over by Officer Steven Miller of the Marietta Police Department at 2:30 am. He was stopped after he sped from a traffic light changed lanes without a blinker and cut off an ambulance. Officer Miller, a Drug Recognition Expert and Accident Reconstructionist trained officer, noticed an odor of alcohol and red and glassy eyes. Steed admitted to having three drinks. Officer Miller requested field sobriety tests.
Steed showed 6/6 clues on the HGN, 4/8 clues on the Walk and Turn test, 0/4 clues on the one-leg stand. Steed tested positive for alcohol on the portable alcosensor alcohol breath test. Steed objected to hearsay regarding his North Carolina driving record and irrelevance of statements he made on the video about having a suspended license in North Carolina. Steed not being represented by an attorney made the wrong objections.
First, GCIC is only admissible to prove state convictions by statute and not out-of-state convictions which must be established by certified records.
Second, hearsay was the wrong objection. It really should have been the best evidence objection as the best evidence would have been the paper GCIC printout. Third, evidence of a suspended license is bad character evidence and must be proven with a notice of similar transactions before trial. The Court of Appeals denied his hearsay objection as res gestae and his relevance objection as to the discretion of the trial court. Steed then opened the door to the officer testifying about the elements of his North Carolina suspended license and thus convicting himself. The Court of Appeals held that: “Although one may legitimately complain about illegal testimony which is not responsive to the question, one cannot take chances in propounding questions which may elicit damaging answers, otherwise inadmissible, and then demand a mistrial.”
Steed alleged the trial judge violated OCGA 17-8-57 in five different ways. OCGA 17-8-57 provides: “It is an error for any judge in any criminal case, during its progress or in his charge to the jury, to express or intimate his opinion as to what has or has not been proved or as to the guilt of the accused. Should any judge violate this Code section, the violation shall be held by the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals to be error and the decision in the case reversed, and a new trial granted in the court below with such directions as the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals may lawfully give.” In this case, Steed failed to preserve his objections at the trial level. The lesson is there is no such thing as a slam dunk DUI for the self-represented. Trial rules and law are too complex for inexperienced lawyers much less inexperienced non-lawyers. An experienced DUI lawyer would have about a 95% chance of not guilty with a person that showed no clues on the one-leg stand.