State v. Cannon

Decision Date24 February 1975
Docket NumberNo. 5586,5586
PartiesSTATE of Hawaii, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James R. CANNON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtHawaii Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. To deny a motion to acquit, there must be sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case. The evidence must enable a reasonable mind fairly to conclude

guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, giving full play to the right of the fact finder to determine credibility, weigh the evidence, and draw justifiable inferences of fact.

2. It is error for a trial court to deny a motion to acquit on the ground that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense charged.

3. Applying the proper standard of law, the evidence presented by the prosecution before the motion to acquit was sufficient to establish a prima facie case of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor (HRS § 291-4), and the trial court's denial of the motion on improper grounds was not reversible error.

4. The test of a verdict on appeal is whether there is substantial evidence to support the verdict.

5. Given the evidence in this case, there was substantial evidence to support the verdict.

6. It was for the trial judge as fact finder in this case to assess the credibility of the witnesses, including the defendant's, and to resolve all questions of fact. The fact finder may accept or reject any witness' testimony in whole or in part.

7. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction, the appellate court 'must take that view of the evidence with inferences reasonably and justifiably to be drawn therefrom most favorable to the Government, without weighing the evidence or determining the credibility of the witnesses.'

Milton W. B. Choy, Honolulu, for appellant.

George K. Kaeo, Jr., and Barclay E. MacDonald, Deputy Pros. Attys., and Barry Chung, Pros. Atty., City & County of Honolulu, Honolulu, for appellee.

Before RICHARDSON, C. J., KOBAYASHI OGATA and MENOR, JJ., and R. V. LEWIS, Retired Justice, assigned by reason of vacancy.

RICHARDSON, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from the District Court of the First Circuit. The defendant was convicted under HRS § 291-4 1 of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

The issues in this case are:

1) whether, in regard to a motion to acquit in a prosecution for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, the prosecution introduced sufficient evidence that the defendant actually drove his vehicle while intoxicated;

2) whether the trial court could properly find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was intoxicated at the time he was alleged to have been driving, after the defendant testified that he had consumed alcohol subsequent to his operation of the vehicle.

At the trial, prior to the motion to acquit, the arresting officer testified that when he arrived at the scene of the accident around 2:25 a. m., July 15, 1973, he found a Ranchero truck resting on a low stone fence along Machado Street (a public street), the ignition was on, and the defendant was leaning to the right side, asleep. The officer testified that the defendant was behind the wheel. The officer noticed a strong smell of alcohol on the defendant when he first got to the car. After two or three minutes of effort, the officer awoke the defendant, grabbed his right arm and helped him out of the passenger's side of the vehicle. The officer noticed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes, and the smell of alcohol on his breath. The defendant was also very unsteady on his feet, had to be helped by the officer to gain his balance, and was told to lean on the vehicle so as not to fall.

The officer than took the defendant to the police station where the defendant signed the implied consent form and where another officer administered a breathalyzer test to defendant. The breathalyzer indicated the defendant's blood alcohol content to be .15%.

After the above evidence was introduced at trial, the defendant moved to acquit on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendnat had actually driven the car, let alone driven drunk. The court denied the motion.

To deny a motion to acquit there must be sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case. The evidence must enable a reasonable mind fairly to conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, giving full play to the right of the fact finder to determine credibility, weigh the evidence, and draw justifiable inferences of fact. State v. Rocker, 52 Haw. 336 at 345-346,475 P.2d 684 at 690. This test applies to both direct testimony and circumstantial evidence.

In passing upon the defendant's motion for acquittal in this case, the trial judge applied an erroneous standard of law. The record indicates that he denied the motion, not because he found from the evidence that a reasonable mind might fairly conclude guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but because he was satisfied that there was probable cause to believe that the defendant had committed the offense charged. This was error. State v. Rocker, supra.

Officers have probable cause to make an arrest when 'the facts and circumstances within their knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information were sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that (a crime was being committed),' Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 162, 45 S.Ct. 280, 288, 69 L.Ed. 543 (1925).

State v. Texeira, 50 Haw. 138, 142, 433 P.2d 593 (1967). Probable cause to believe that the accused committed the offense with which he is charged is not equivalent to a belief that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, Stroman v. Gilbert, 2 Conn. Cir. 179, 197 A.2d 99 (1963), and a distinction must be drawn between the evidence required in each situation. Draper v. United States, 358 U.S. 307, 311-312, 79 S.Ct. 329, 3 L.Ed.2d 327 (1959).

The importance of the motion for acquittal as a necessary safeguard for the individual under our system of criminal justice is not to be minimized. And its significance in a criminal trial is not lessened by virtue of its being jury- waived. The standards and considerations applicable in a trial before a jury are equally binding upon a judge trying the case without a jury. United States v. Maryland & Virginia Milk Pro. Ass'n,90 F.Supp. 681 (D.D.C.1950); United States v. DeNiro, 392 F.2d 753 (6th Cir. 1968); cf. Wilson v. United States, 250 F.2d 312 (9th Cir. 1957).

The question, then, is whether the trial judge committed reversible error. While the trial judge should be admonished that the motion for acquittal is not an inconsequential procedural device, and should not be passed upon lightly, we are nevertheless constrained to hold that the evidence of the prosecution, applying the proper standard of law, 2 was sufficient to establish a prima facie case. 3 The officer testified that he saw the defendant behind the wheel, although leaning to the right side, asleep, and that the ignition was turned on. Furthermore, the truck was resting astride a low stone fence along a public highway, and the defendant who was the sole occupant smelled strongly of alcohol. The defense did not challenge the credibility of the officer and did not elicit testimony from him to indicate that another person might have been driving. Accordingly, the defendant's motion for acquittal made at the close of the State's case was properly denied.

On the question of the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the conviction, we find that the record amply supports the determination of the trial court. The test on appeal is whether there is substantial evidence to support the verdict. State v. Rocker, supra; State v. Kekaualua, 50 Haw. 130, 433 P.2d 131 (1967).

Following the motion to acquit, the defendant took the stand and added the following testimony to the case: The defendant admitted that he had consumed three or four manhattans between 11:00 p. m. and 1:10 a. m. the night of the accident and that he had taken tranquilizers (Valium pills) at 10:30 p. m. and around 2:00 a. m. that same night. The defendnat drove from the airport and took a man home around 1:45 a. m. After dropping the rider off, the defendant attempted to back up to turn around, at which time he hit a telephone pole and swerved onto the two-foot high stonewall where his truck became stuck. He then took the last Valium pill in the truck with some scotch or bourbon he had in the truck and went to sleep.

The defendant was given the breathalyzer test at 3:40 a. m. on July 15, 1973, and that test indicated that the defendant's blood alcohol content amounted to .15%, thus giving rise to the presumption that he was under the influence of intoxicating liquor at the time of the alleged violation. 4

The defendant appeals the trial court's reliance on the statutory presumption of HRS Section 291-5(3) on the grounds that intervening events, here the consumption of Valium and liquor after the accident, rebutted the statutory presumption and established a reasonable doubt. This contention would have validity only if the defendant did in fact consume liquor between the time of the alleged violation and the time the breathalyzer test was conducted.

It was for the trial judge as fact finder in this case to assess the credibility of the witnesses, including the defendant's, and to resolve all questions of fact. United States v. Ewbank, 483 F.2d 1149 (9th Cir. 1973). The fact finder may accept or reject any witness' testimony in whole or in part. Commonwealth v. Hornberger, 441 Pa. 57, 270 A.2d 195 (1970); Commonwealth v. Kirkland, 413 Pa. 48, 195 A.2d 338 (1963). And in reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction the appellate court 'must take that view of the evidence with inferences reasonably and justifiably to be drawn therefrom most favorable to the Government, without weighing the evidence or determining the credibility...

To continue reading

Request your trial
39 cases
  • 77 Hawai'i 241, State v. Chow, 16547
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Hawai'i
    • October 20, 1994
    ...Doe, 76 Hawai'i 85, 92-93, 869 P.2d 1304, 1311-12 (1994). Accord State v. Sujohn, 5 Haw.App. 459, 697 P.2d 1143 (1985); State v. Cannon, 56 Haw. 161, 532 P.2d 391 (1975). We are required to sustain the conviction[s] " 'so long as there is substantial evidence tending to support the requisit......
  • Shinn v. Edwin Yee, Ltd., 5540
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • August 24, 1976
    ...testimony the weight that it deserves. The court may accept or reject the testimony of a witness in whole or in part. State v. Cannon, 56 Haw. 161, 532 P.2d 391 (1975); Siko v. Seguirant, 51 Haw. 118, 452 P.2d 447 (1969); In re Miller's Estate, 143 Cal.App.2d 544, 299 P.2d 1005 (1956). Acco......
  • 89 Hawai'i 59, State v. Auwae, 21131
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Hawai'i
    • September 18, 1998
    ...and Darlene. The fact finder Page 1076 [89 Hawai'i 65] may accept or reject any witness's testimony in whole or in part. State v. Cannon, 56 Haw. 161, 166, 532 P.2d 391, 396 (1975) (citations omitted). We will not disturb that finding on appeal. It is the sole province of the jury as the tr......
  • State v. Smith, 6275
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Hawai'i
    • August 21, 1978
    ...of whether the trial court should have granted that motion is tested against the standard which we set forth in State v. Cannon, 56 Haw. 161, 163, 532 P.2d 391, 394 (1975). To deny a motion to acquit there must be sufficient evidence to support a prima facie case. The evidence must enable a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT