Carlson v. State

Decision Date20 October 2014
Docket NumberNo. A14A0764.,A14A0764.
CourtGeorgia Court of Appeals
PartiesCARLSON v. The STATE.

James Michael Miller, for Appellant.

D. Victor Reynolds, Dist. Atty., Marietta, Amelia Greeson Pray, Asst. Dist. Atty., for Appellee.

Opinion

McFADDEN, Judge.

After a jury trial, Chris David Carlson was convicted of felony obstruction of an officer, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and misdemeanor obstruction of an officer. He appeals the felony obstruction conviction, arguing first that the trial court committed plain error in its response to a question from the jury about the elements of that offense. Pretermitting the merits of Carlson's analysis of the elements of felony obstruction, we conclude that he is not entitled to reversal under a plain error analysis because it is not highly probable that any error in the response affected the outcome of the proceedings. He also argues that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on misdemeanor obstruction as a lesser included offense of felony obstruction. But as the evidence shows completion of the greater offense of felony obstruction, we conclude that the trial court did not err in failing to charge on misdemeanor obstruction as a lesser included offense. We therefore affirm Carlson's convictions.

1. Facts.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, Morris v. State, 322 Ga.App. 682(1), 746 S.E.2d 162 (2013), the evidence shows that a Cobb County police officer was on patrol when a Ford Explorer changed lanes in front of him without signaling. The officer ran the Explorer's license tag and determined that the tag belonged to a Lexus, so he stopped the vehicle. Carlson was driving.

Carlson exited the vehicle, and the officer ordered him to get back in. Instead of complying with the officer's order, Carlson ran. The officer chased after him. Carlson jumped over a fence, the officer followed, and they both fell. The officer attempted to arrest Carlson, but he resisted, punching and kicking the officer. Carlson escaped, ran off again and jumped over a retaining wall. The officer followed and reached Carlson. Carlson punched the officer in the face and kicked him. When the officer tried to handcuff Carlson, Carlson grabbed the handcuffs, threw them and ran off. The officer followed. The two rolled down an embankment, and Carlson continued to kick and punch the officer. The officer was able to straddle Carlson. Carlson grabbed a rock or a brick, which the officer thought Carlson was going to use to strike him, so the officer sprayed Carlson with pepper spray. At that point, Carlson complied with the officer's commands, and the officer was able to handcuff him, using his second set of handcuffs. The state introduced photographs of the bruises and scratches the officer sustained during the altercation.

This evidence was sufficient to support the conviction of felony obstruction under the standard of Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). See OCGA § 16–10–24(b) (“Whoever knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes any law enforcement officer... in the lawful discharge of his official duties by offering or doing violence to the person of such officer ... is guilty of a felony[.]); Smith v. State, 294 Ga.App. 579, 581(1), 669 S.E.2d 530 (2008) (violently struggling with officers during their attempt to arrest an accused suffices to show that the accused offered or did violence to the officers and supports a felony obstruction conviction).

2. Claim of plain error in the trial court's response to a question from the jury about the elements of felony obstruction.

Carlson enumerates as error the trial court's response to a question from the jury about the elements of felony obstruction. That response, Carlson argues, conflates two distinct elements of the offense: “first, the accused must offer violence or do violence to the officer; and second, the offer or violence must resist, obstruct, or oppose the officer in the lawful discharge of his official duties.” Cf. OCGA § 16–10–24(b) (“Whoever knowingly and willfully resists, obstructs, or opposes any law enforcement officer, prison guard, correctional officer, probation supervisor, parole supervisor, or conservation ranger in the lawful discharge of his official duties by offering or doing violence to the person of such officer or legally authorized person is guilty of a felony and shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.”). But as Carlson did not object to the response at the time it was given, his burden is to show plain error. Even if Carlson's analysis of the statute is correct and the trial court's response was erroneous—and we do not hold or imply that this is so—Carlson cannot meet that burden.

During deliberations, the jury asked, “Can pulling away from the officer's grasp to resist arrest be defined as offering and doing violence to the officer? Yesterday's explanation failed to link the act of resisting an officer's attempt to subdue him with offering and doing violence.” The trial court consulted with the prosecuting attorney and with defense counsel about how to respond. She then charged the jury:

In a lawful arrest, an officer has the right to use that force reasonably necessary to effect the arrest, and the Defendant does not have a right to resist the use of such reasonable force. To constitute obstruction of an officer as set out in count one, actual injury to the alleged victim need not be shown. It's only necessary that the evidence show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant offered to or did violence to the officer.
Under this statute, the word “doing violence” means physically resisting. Now, with that said, you are to consider all the law you've been given in this case, all the facts you've been given in this case in reaching your verdict.

Carlson argues that the court's response that “the word ‘doing...

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5 cases
  • Robinson v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 16, 2021
    ...officer, it was not necessary for the trial court to give the instruction for a lesser included offense); Carlson v. State , 329 Ga. App. 309, 311 (2), 764 S.E.2d 890 (2014) (explaining that although the trial court may have instructed the jury incorrectly, the evidence showed that defendan......
  • Quiller v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • July 15, 2016
    ...or public reputation of the judicial proceedings.” (Citation and punctuation omitted; emphasis supplied.) Carlson v. State , 329 Ga.App. 309, 311, 764 S.E.2d 890 (2014). But assuming without deciding that Quiller satisfied the other factors, he “cannot show that the court's instruction affe......
  • Robinson v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 16, 2021
    ...toward officer, it was not necessary for the trial court to give the instruction for a lesser included offense); Carlson v. State , 329 Ga. App. 309, 311 (2), 764 S.E.2d 890 (2014) (explaining that although the trial court may have instructed the jury incorrectly, the evidence showed that d......
  • Chynoweth v. State
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • February 11, 2015
    ...trial court was not required to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of misdemeanor obstruction. See Carlson v. State, 329 Ga.App. 309, 312(3), 764 S.E.2d 890 (2014) ; White, supra.Judgment affirmed, sentence vacated, and case remanded for resentencing.BARNES, P.J., and BRANCH, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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