State v. Pruett

Decision Date29 May 1967
Docket NumberNo. 9846,9846
Citation428 P.2d 43,91 Idaho 537
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, .v Michael T. PRUETT, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

John Hjellum, II, Boise, for appellant.

Allan G. Shepard, Atty. Gen., and John S. Simko, Asst. Atty. Gen., Boise, for respondent.

SPEAR, Justice.

Michael T. Pruett, defendant, appeals to the supreme Court following his conviction for reckless driving after a jury trial in the district court for Ada County. On September 24, 1965, Pruett left Mountain Home at between 9:35 and 9:40 p.m. allegedly traveling at speeds up to 105 m.p.h., before finally stopped at a roadblock set up by the state police at Gowen Field Road and Highway 30, east of Boise, a distance of 34 miles, at about 10:00 p.m.

Pruett was charged by criminal complaint in the justice court for Ada County with the crime of reckless driving. The criminal complaint specifically limited the place of the crime 'upon and along Highway 30 between 5 miles east of Boise and Gowen Field Road' in Ada County, Idaho. Convicted in justice court, Pruett appealed to the district court, where following a trial de novo, Pruett was again convicted as charged. Pruett received a sentence of 15 days in the county jail and was ordered to pay a fine of $200.00 together with $264.00 court costs. From that judgemtn of conviction Pruett has perfected this appeal to the supreme court.

On September 24, 1965 appellant Pruett and Charles Mitchell, both insurance salesmen who as part of their job travel extensively throughout the state, were in Twin Falls on a business trip. They left Twin Falls early in the evening to return to Boise traveling in Mitchell's car, a recently acquired Buick Riviera. Mitchell drove the distance to Mountain Home where they stopped at about 9:00 p.m. for dinner.

Appellant and Mitchell left Mountain Home between 9:35 and 9:40 with appellant now behind the wheel. Officer Nelson Olds of the Mountain Home police force was driving behind appellant and soon gave chase when he saw the appellant speeding. The chase started at the corner of Jackson and North 2nd Street East in the City of Mountain Home as appellant made a lefthand turn on 2nd East headed out Highway 30 toward Boise. Olds testified that the patrol car he was driving that night could reach a speed of only 95 m.p.h. and at that speed he was unable to overtake the Buick automobile driven by appellant. Both appellant and Mitchell testified they were unaware of the pursuit by Officer Olds.

Olds, realizing he could not overtake the Buick, radioed for assistance and was told to stay in pursuit and that a roadblock was being set up. The officer, traveling at approximately 95 m.p.h., traveled the 34 miles to the roadblock, arriving at the Gowen Field Road some 3 minutes after appellant.

Approximately 1.6 miles from Gowen Field Road, Interstate 80 ends and the highway becomes a two-lane road, Highway 30. Appellant admits to traveling along this stretch of road at 60 to 70 m.p.h. in a posted 55 m.p.h. zone for night driving.

Highway 30 in this area is only twenty-two feet in width. The roadbed is old and the highway surface is damaged by rough spots. Erosion has left the road's edge jagged and unsafe if a car were to 'ride' the edge and shoulder of the road at high speed. Access roads from two or three buildings intersect the highway. On either side is open range for cattle and warnings are posted to watch for stock. The road is not fenced and cattle have been known to wander out onto the highway.

Officers Charles W. Sterling and Homer R. Garrett of the Idaho State Police set up the roadblock. Officer Sterling was parked off the highway at a point near the end of Interstate 80 in the '30 East scale pit.' Officer Garrett was posted at the intersection of Gowen Field Road and Highway 30, 1.6 miles distant, and had parked his patrol car across the eastbound lane of Highway 30.

Sterling estimated the speed of the Buick at between 85 and 90 m.p.h. and accelerating as the appellant passed him. The car, by the officer's account, was not swerving or otherwise traveling erratically. The officer pulled onto the highway and gave chase, reaching 105 m.p.h., and turning on his car's siren and red light. Neither Mitchell nor appellant admit seeing or hearing the officer's car as it gave pursuit. Sterling lost sight of Mitchell's car as it was going over a slight dip in the road about .4 of a mile from Gowen Field Road. When Garrett first saw the car as it came up over the rise in the road, he estimated its speed at 70 m.p.h. The officer testified that the car was not swerving and remained in its proper lane, and that appellant was able to stop, without 'laying rubber' or skidding, behind a truck which had slowed down in the westbound lane at the roadblock.

Mitchell, who for a good part of the trip dozed off, felt that appellant was traveling at a 'comfortable speed'; and additionally testified that he knew appellant to be a good driver, having traveled with him some 80,000 miles over the preceding year on various business trips. His car, Mitchell stated, was of heavy construction and handled safely at speeds higher than that for smaller cars.

The prosecution to support its case against appellant called Robert Dale Bissell, a recent high school graduate, Jim Paige, a college student and a passenger in the car driven by Bissell, and Darrell E. Hansen, a professional driver for the Western Greyhound Line. Appellant passed the car driven by Bissell and the bus driven by Hansen on Interstate 80 coming into Boise in the area of Black's Creek overpass. Each variously estimated the speed of the Buick driven by appellant as excessive; and the estimations on speed ranged from 85 up to 105 m.p.h. All testified that appellant signalled when passing and that the car was not swerving.

Appellant first maintains that the record does not support the verdict on the ground that the prosecution failed to present substantial and reliable evidence to support the charge actually brought in the complaint, being, to-wit: reckless driving upon and along Highway 30 between five miles east of Boise and Gowen Field Road. The contention advanced in support of this assignment is that the proof submitted at trial establishes merely, at the time and place charged in the complaint, appellant was driving at a speed in excess of the posted limit. Appellant specifically points out the evidence conclusively shows that he was not swerving, or otherwise driving erratically, but in fact at all times kept in his proper lane of traffic. Appellant's position is that speed alone is not sufficient for a conviction of reckless driving.

Our review of the record compels us, however, to conclude that there was substantial and competent evidence before the jury to support the charge of reckless driving alleged in the complaint and the subsequent conviction for that offense in the district court. 1 The crime of reckless driving must necessarily depend upon the attendant cirumstances of the particular case; and whether conduct complained of constitutes a violation of the prohibition against reckless driving is therefore primarily a question for the trier of fact. The general rule is enunciated in 52 A.L.R.2d 1337, § 32, p. 1370, and numerous cases are there set out in which convictions for reckless driving were upheld.

One may, as appellant suggests, be guilty of speeding and yet not reckless driving; however, speed can never be isolated, 'in itself and alone.' The court in People v. Nowell, 45 Cal.App.2d Supp. 811, 114 P.2d 81 (1941), forcefully made that point when it stated at page 82:

'Of necessity, when referring to the speed of an automobile, there is involved the highway on which it travels, with its width, surface and the presence or lack of traffic upon it. There is involved, too, the factor of visibility; was the car driven before or after dark? When considered in relation to these matters, mere speed, without other acts, may demonstrate wilful misconduct or that the driving is reckless.'

Norfolk v. State, 360 P.2d 605 (Wyo. 1961). See generally, Anno. 52 A.L.R.2d 1337, §§ 17-18, pp. 1361-1363.

Appellant's conviction for reckless driving on Highway 30 between 5 miles east of Boise and Gowen Field Road is supported by the record: (1) Officer Sterling testified that appellant drove at 85 to 90 m.p.h. and was accelerating; (2) Officer Garrett estimated the speed at which appellant was driving at 70 m.p.h. as the car approached the roadblock; (3) the highway in this area was a two-lane road, only twenty-two feet in width, had rough spots on the surface and chunks of pavement had broken off along the edge of the road; (4) the area on either side of the road was open range for cattle, was not fenced, and cattle at difference times were known to wander onto the highway; (5) two or three buildings, each having an access road to the highway, were located within this area; and (6) the car was being driven after dark.

Presented with such evidence, we cannot say that the jury wa not warranted in finding the appellant guilty of reckless driving under our statute which prohibits traveling at a speed or in a manner to endanger or likely to endanger persons or property. The credibility of witnesses and the weight given their testimony was for the jury exclusively; and where there is competent, substantial, though conflicting, evidence to sustain a verdict, this court cannot reweigh that evidence or disturb the verdict. State v. Booton, 85 Idaho 51, 375 P.2d 536; State v. Snowden, 79 Idaho 266, 313 P.2d 706; State v. McKenna, 78 Idaho 647, 309 P.2d 206; State v. Weise, 75 Idaho 404, 273, P.2d 97; State v. Johnson, 74 Idaho 269, 261 P.2d 638; State v. Cofer, 73 Idaho 1818 249 P.2d 197.

Appellant in connection with his first assignment additionally alleges that the district court committed error in overruling objections to the testimony of Robert Dale Bissell and Nelson Olds as to the...

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29 cases
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    • June 14, 1976
    ...may, by timely motion, require the State to amend its complaint so as to provide further particulars. I.C. § R19-3901. State v. Pruett, 91 Idaho 537, 428 P.2d 43 (1967); State v. Sedam, 62 Idaho 26, 107 P.2d 1065 (1940). However, since a defendant's constitutional right to insist on a more ......
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