Owens v. Commonwealth

Citation136 S.E. 765
Case DateJanuary 20, 1927
CourtSupreme Court of Virginia

136 S.E. 765


Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia.

Jan. 20, 1927.

[136 S.E. 766]

Error to Corporation Court of Norfolk.

Leon M. Owens was convicted of driving an automobile while under the influence of intoxicants, and he brings error. Affirmed.

Venable, Miller, Pilcher & Parsons, of Norfolk, for plaintiff in error.

John R. Saunders, Atty. Gen., for the Commonwealth.

CAMPBELL, J. On the 5th day of October, 1925, the attorney for the commonwealth filed in the corporation court of the city of Norfolk an information against the defendant, Leon M. Owens, as follows:

"Be it remembered that Thomas H. Willcox, Tr., attorney for the commonwealth for the said city of Norfolk, and who for the said commonwealth prosecutes in this behalf, in his proper person comes into the said court on this the 5th day of October, in the year 1925, and upon the complaint in writing verified by the oath of R. A. Fine, a competent witness, gives the said court here to understand and be informed that Leon M. Owens on the 16th day of September. 1925, in the said city of Norfolk, did unlawfully run and drive an automobile while under the influence of intoxicants, against the peace and dignity of the commonwealth of Virginia."

A trial by jury was had, which resulted in a verdict of guilty, fixing the punishment of the defendant at 30 days' confinement in jail and a fine of $100. There was a motion to set aside the verdict and award the defendant a new trial on the grounds that the verdict was contrary to the law and the evidence. This motion was overruled, and the court proceeded to enter the following judgment:

"This day came again the defendant, and also came the attorney for the commonwealth, and the motion for a new trial, heretofore made on the 17th day of November, 1925, having been fully heard by the court, is overruled, to which action of the court in overruling said motion, the defendant, by counsel, duly excepted. Whereupon it is considered by the court that the said defendant be sentenced on the state convict road force for the period of 30 days, and fined the sum of $100, and be required to pay the costs of his prosecution. It is further considered by the court that the said defendant be so confined on the state convict road force after he shall have served the said term of 30 days, until he shall have paid the fine and costs aforesaid, or is otherwise released by due process of law, provided, however, that such confinement shall not exceed six months, and which said six months' confinement for the nonpayment of the fine and costs aforesaid shall be in addition to the term of 30 days as herein fixed."

The evidence in the case may be summarized thus:

On the night of September 16, 1925, the accused, operating an automobile in the city of Norfolk, about 11 o'clock, had a collision with an automobile driven by a man named Fine. At the time of the accident the accused had one Walden, who was very drunk, in his automobile. After the collision, one Hoffheimer went to the scene, and, when testifying, stated that, although he did not know who drove the automobile, one of the occupants was very drunk, and the other drinking. The policeman who made the arrest testified that, in his opinion, the accused was drunk, although he could not define exactly what he meant by drunkenness, and that the man with him was very drunk. The policeman further testified that he could not say whether or not the accused was so under the influence of liquor as to affect his ability to drive an automobile.

Charges of drunkenness were preferred against both the accused and Walden, and the next morning Walden was fined for being drunk. The charge of drunkenness against the accused was dismissed by the police justice, but the accused was sent on to the corporation court by the police justice on the charge of operating an automobile while under the influence of liquor.

The accused admitted driving the automobile, and that about 3 o'clock on the afternoon preceding the night on which the accident happened he had taken two moderate sized drinks, but was not drunk. The accused was shown to have an excellent character.

It is assigned as error that the court erred in granting an instruction on behalf of the commonwealth, reading as follows:

"The court instructs the jury that, if they believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused, in the city of Norfolk, was driving an automobile, and while so driving he was under the influence of intoxicants to such an extent that his ability to drive with safety to himself and others was thereby materially impaired, they should find the accused guilty as charged in the information, and fix the punishment at confinement in jail for not less than 30 days and not more than one year, and a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000."

There is no merit in this assignment. The instruction complained of was more favorable to the defendant than he was entitled to.

[136 S.E. 767]

It should not have been given, as it placed the burden upon the commonwealth of proving beyond every reasonable doubt that, while the accused was driving the automobile, he was under the influence of intoxicants to such an extent that his ability to drive with safety to himself and others was thereby materially impaired.

The prohibition law (Laws 1924, c. 407) does not place such a burden upon the commonwealth. Section 25 of the law provides that—

"it shall be unlawful for any person...

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37 cases
  • Jones v. Cunningham, 8716.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • January 16, 1963
    ...the informations would not suffice. Sigmon v. Commonwealth, 200 Va. 258, 105 S.E.2d 171, 176 (1958). 9 Owens v. Commonwealth, 147 Va. 624, 136 S.E. 765, 767-768 10 He also cross-examined the probation officer at the sentencing hearing and, prior thereto, tried to persuade the Commonwealth a......
  • Com. v. Connolly
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • February 28, 1985
    ...105 Vt. 180, 163 A. 560 (1933), reaffirmed in State v. Wall, 137 Vt. 482, 487, 408 A.2d 632 (1979); Owens v. Commonwealth, 147 Va. 624, 136 S.E. 765...
  • Gardner v. Commonwealth, Record No. 131166.
    • United States
    • Virginia Supreme Court of Virginia
    • June 5, 2014
    ...234 S.E.2d 79, 81 (1977); Scott v. Commonwealth, 191 Va. 73, 78–79, 60 S.E.2d 14, 16 (1950); Owens v. Commonwealth, 147 Va. 624, 630–31, 136 S.E. 765, 767 (1927); Union Central Life Ins. Co. v. Pollard, 94 Va. 146, 156–57, 26 S.E. 421, 423–24 (1896). A criminal defendant may prove his good ......
  • Gosling v. Com., 1700-90-2
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • March 24, 1992
    ...of issues on appeal. See Wyche v. Commonwealth, 218 Va. 839, 842, 241 S.E.2d 772, 775 (1978); Owens v. Commonwealth, 147 Va. 624, 630-31, 136 S.E. 765, 767 (1927); Klein v. Klein, 11 Va.App. 155, 160, 396 S.E.2d 866, 869 (1990); Lowery v. Commonwealth, 9 Va.App. 304, 307, 387 S.E.2d 508, 51......
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