People v. Valdez, Court of Appeals No. 11CA1659

Docket NºCourt of Appeals No. 11CA1659
Citation411 P.3d 94
Case DateSeptember 25, 2014
CourtCourt of Appeals of Colorado

411 P.3d 94

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff–Appellee,
v.
Arthur Ray VALDEZ, Defendant–Appellant.

Court of Appeals No. 11CA1659

Colorado Court of Appeals, Div. I.

Announced September 25, 2014


John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Gabriel P. Olivares, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff–Appellee.

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Kielly Dunn, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant–Appellant.

Opinion by JUDGE TAUBMAN

¶ 1 Defendant, Arthur Ray Valdez, appeals his judgment of conviction following a jury verdict finding him guilty of aggravated driving after revocation prohibited (ADARP) and driving under the influence (DUI). He also appeals the sentences imposed for the offenses. We affirm.

I. Background

¶ 2 In March 2010, a witness driving in Pueblo observed a vehicle parked along the curb at an intersection. Concerned, he stopped and discovered Valdez passed out and unresponsive in the driver's seat. He contacted law enforcement officials.

¶ 3 When law enforcement officials arrived, they observed Valdez in a stupor with a twenty-four-ounce can of beer between his legs, and his feet near the gas and brake pedals. They also found his keys in the ignition. When they arrested Valdez, he slurred his speech and drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point, he attempted to start the vehicle, but the officers restrained him. They eventually removed him from the vehicle. At the time of the arrest, Valdez's driver's license had been revoked because he was a habitual traffic offender.

¶ 4 The prosecution charged Valdez with ADARP and DUI. The jury convicted him as charged, and the trial court sentenced him to three years of probation for ADARP and two years of probation plus sixty days in jail for DUI.

II. Sufficiency of the Evidence

¶ 5 Valdez contends that the trial court erred in denying his motions for judgment of acquittal on the charges of ADARP and DUI because the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he "operated" or "drove" an "operable" motor vehicle. We disagree.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 6 We review the denial of a motion for a judgment of acquittal de novo. People v. Reed, 2013 COA 113, ¶ 49, 338 P.3d 364. In doing so, we review the record to "determine whether the evidence before the jury was sufficient both in quantity and quality to sustain the defendant's conviction." Clark v. People, 232 P.3d 1287, 1291 (Colo. 2010).

B. Analysis

¶ 7 To determine if the evidence presented to the jury is sufficient to sustain a defendant's conviction, we apply a substantial evidence test. Id . This test considers "whether the relevant evidence, both direct and circumstantial, when viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to the prosecution, is substantial and sufficient to support a conclusion by a reasonable mind that the defendant is guilty of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt." Id . (quoting People v. Bennett, 183 Colo. 125, 130, 515 P.2d 466, 469 (1973) ). More specifically, we have to determine "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Id .

411 P.3d 98

¶ 8 In applying the test, we must give the prosecution the benefit of every reasonable inference which may be fairly drawn from the evidence. Id . at 1292. The weight and credibility of the evidence are deferred to the jury's judgment. People v. McGlotten, 166 P.3d 182, 188 (Colo. App. 2007).

¶ 9 Here, Valdez contends the prosecution did not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the requisite elements for his ADARP and DUI convictions. He argues that the prosecution did not provide evidence that he had driven the vehicle. He also asserts that his witnesses testified that the vehicle's battery was dead and that the vehicle had to be pushed or towed. Last, he maintains that the vehicle was inoperable even though he reached for the ignition because the engine would not actually start. We are not persuaded by these arguments.

¶ 10 An ADARP conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant "operated" a vehicle. See § 42–2–206(1)(b)(I), C.R.S. 2014. The term "operate" means "the action of causing something ‘to occur ... [or] to cause to function usually by direct personal effort.’ " People v. Stewart, 55 P.3d 107, 115 (Colo. 2002) (quoting People v. Gregor, 26 P.3d 530, 532 (Colo. App. 2000) ).

¶ 11 A DUI conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant drove a vehicle. See § 42–4–1301(1)(a), C.R.S. 2014. The term "drive" means to exercise "actual physical control" over a motor vehicle. Stewart, 55 P.3d at 115 (quoting People v. Swain, 959 P.2d 426, 431 (Colo. 1998) ).

¶ 12 However, neither term requires either actual physical movement of a vehicle or that the vehicle travel any particular distance. See Smith v. Charnes, 728 P.2d 1287, 1292 (Colo. 1986) (holding the defendant exercised actual physical control of the vehicle when he was intoxicated and found asleep or unconscious behind the wheel of a stopped vehicle, with the engine running and the lights on); People v. VanMatre, 190 P.3d 770, 774 (Colo. App. 2008) (holding the defendant operated a vehicle even though the vehicle could not move because it lacked fuel and the battery was dead).

¶ 13 Here, the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Valdez had driven and operated the vehicle for purposes of his DUI and ADARP convictions, respectively. First, there was sufficient evidence to prove that Valdez drove the vehicle to the intersection. As noted, the police found him passed out in the driver's seat of the vehicle; his feet were by the gas and brake pedals; the keys were in the ignition; and the lights were on. Further, when law enforcement officials awakened him, he attempted to start the vehicle. The People argue that the jury could have reasonably inferred that "one seated behind the wheel of, and attempting to start, a vehicle stopped in a highway travel lane, was a driver thereof." See Johnson v. Motor Vehicle Div., 38 Colo.App. 230, 556 P.2d 488, 491 (1976). Here, although the vehicle was not in a highway travel lane, it was on the side of the road. Therefore, we conclude that the rationale in Johnson applies.

¶ 14 Additionally, the fact that the vehicle was allegedly immobile at the time of the arrest is not determinative. "The focus should not be narrowly upon the mechanical condition of the car when it comes to rest, but upon the status of its occupant and the nature of the authority he or she exerted over the vehicle in arriving at the place from which, by virtue of its inoperability, it can no longer move." State v. Smelter, 36 Wash.App. 439, 674 P.2d 690, 693 (1984) (cited by VanMatre, 190 P.3d at 773 ). "To hold otherwise could conceivably allow an intoxicated driver whose vehicle was rendered inoperable in a collision to escape prosecution." Id . Evidence at Valdez's trial established that he was intoxicated when the vehicle stopped at the intersection.

¶ 15 Nevertheless, Valdez contends that his witnesses testified that he never drove the vehicle; therefore, he could not be convicted of ADARP and DUI. However, we agree with the People that a jury could have reasonably rejected his witnesses' testimony because of its inconsistency. For instance, on the first day of his testimony, one witness testified that the keys were not originally in

411 P.3d 99

the ignition and that he put the keys in the ignition to start the vehicle. The next day, however, the same witness testified that the keys were already in the ignition. Further, the witnesses could not recall pushing the vehicle to the curb, or explain how Valdez was left unconscious in the passenger seat but then found by the police in the driver's seat.

¶ 16 Because of the overwhelming evidence presented at trial and the witnesses' inconsistent testimony, the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, was sufficient to sustain the convictions for both ADARP and DUI. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in denying Valdez's motions for a judgment of acquittal.

III. Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

¶ 17 Valdez also contends that the trial court erred in not instructing the jury to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, the operability of the vehicle at issue. We disagree.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 18 As relevant here, we review unpreserved issues for plain error. See ...

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8 practice notes
  • People v. Thompson, Court of Appeals No. 09CA2784
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 4, 2017
    ...reasonable inference that might fairly be drawn from the evidence, both direct and circumstantial. People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶ 7, 411 P.3d 94. We also review de novo statute of limitations claims. People v. Johnson , 2013 COA 122, ¶ 7, 327 P.3d 305.B. Legal Principles¶ 81 A person co......
  • People v. Davis, Court of Appeals No. 14CA0842
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 4, 2017
    ...COA 9, ¶ 30, 369 P.3d 680 ; accord People v. Pollard , 2013 COA 31M, ¶ 40, 307 P.3d 1124 ; see also People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶ 27, 411 P.3d 94 (where case law on an issue is unsettled, an error is not obvious); Dougherty v. State , 21 A.3d 1, 6-7 (Del. 2011) ("Several state and fede......
  • People v. Coleman, Court of Appeals No. 15CA0300
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 17, 2018
    ...superseded by statute , Ch. 258, sec. 3, § 42-2-206(1)(b)(III)(A), 2010 Colo. Sess. Laws 1158. See People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶ 32, 411 P.3d 94 (the General Assembly overturned the holding in Carlson when it enacted section 42-2-206(1)(b)(III)(A) ). Recall, subsection (15) requires th......
  • People v. Wambolt, Court of Appeals No. 15CA0352
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • June 28, 2018
    ...had held that the underlying aggravating offense should merge into an ADARP conviction. See People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶¶ 28–32, 411 P.3d 94, 100–01 (summarizing cases). 431 P.3d 689This provision was also amended in 2015 to address the repeal of section 42–2–206(1)(b)(I)(A) and (B). ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • People v. Thompson, Court of Appeals No. 09CA2784
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 4, 2017
    ...reasonable inference that might fairly be drawn from the evidence, both direct and circumstantial. People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶ 7, 411 P.3d 94. We also review de novo statute of limitations claims. People v. Johnson , 2013 COA 122, ¶ 7, 327 P.3d 305.B. Legal Principles¶ 81 A person co......
  • People v. Davis, Court of Appeals No. 14CA0842
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 4, 2017
    ...COA 9, ¶ 30, 369 P.3d 680 ; accord People v. Pollard , 2013 COA 31M, ¶ 40, 307 P.3d 1124 ; see also People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶ 27, 411 P.3d 94 (where case law on an issue is unsettled, an error is not obvious); Dougherty v. State , 21 A.3d 1, 6-7 (Del. 2011) ("Several state and fede......
  • People v. Coleman, Court of Appeals No. 15CA0300
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 17, 2018
    ...superseded by statute , Ch. 258, sec. 3, § 42-2-206(1)(b)(III)(A), 2010 Colo. Sess. Laws 1158. See People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶ 32, 411 P.3d 94 (the General Assembly overturned the holding in Carlson when it enacted section 42-2-206(1)(b)(III)(A) ). Recall, subsection (15) requires th......
  • People v. Wambolt, Court of Appeals No. 15CA0352
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • June 28, 2018
    ...had held that the underlying aggravating offense should merge into an ADARP conviction. See People v. Valdez , 2014 COA 125, ¶¶ 28–32, 411 P.3d 94, 100–01 (summarizing cases). 431 P.3d 689This provision was also amended in 2015 to address the repeal of section 42–2–206(1)(b)(I)(A) and (B). ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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