State v. Simmons, No. 15-0715

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtWALKER, Justice
Citation801 S.E.2d 530
Parties STATE of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent v. Chaz A. SIMMONS, Defendant Below, Petitioner
Docket NumberNo. 15-0715
Decision Date16 June 2017

801 S.E.2d 530

STATE of West Virginia, Plaintiff Below, Respondent
v.
Chaz A. SIMMONS, Defendant Below, Petitioner

No. 15-0715

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted: May 3, 2017
Filed: June 16, 2017


Jason D. Parmer, Esq., Appellate Advocacy Division, Public Defender Services, Charleston, West Virginia, Counsel for the Petitioner

Patrick Morrisey, Esq., Attorney General, Benjamin F. Yancey, III, Esq., Assistant Attorney General, Charleston, West Virginia, Counsel for the Respondent

WALKER, Justice:

Chaz A. Simmons appeals the July 21, 2015, Amended Order of the Circuit Court of Roane County, West Virginia, entering a guilty verdict on a two count Indictment for driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI"). The circuit court sentenced him to two to ten years for the felony Count I, DUI Resulting in Death, and one year for the misdemeanor Count II, DUI Resulting in Injury.

On appeal to this Court, Mr. Simmons argues the circuit court erred in admitting his statements to police into evidence at trial. Specifically, in his first assignment of error, Mr. Simmons argues that the circuit court committed reversible error for failing to fulfill its mandatory duty to conduct a hearing on the voluntariness of a written ("first") statement he signed while at the hospital shortly after the vehicular accident. Mr. Simmons asserts that, pursuant to State v. Fortner, 150 W.Va. 571, 148 S.E.2d 669 (1966), this Court must remand this case for that hearing. In his second assignment of error, Mr. Simmons argues that the circuit court committed reversible error in admitting a recorded ("second") statement into evidence at trial. He asserts that the police delayed presenting him to the magistrate for the primary purpose of obtaining that second statement in violation of the prompt presentment rule codified in West Virginia Code § 62-1-5(a)(1) (2014) and Rule 5(a) of the West Virginia Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Upon consideration of the parties' briefs and arguments, the submitted record and pertinent authorities, we affirm the order of the circuit court.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

At approximately 2:34 a.m. on July 18, 2013, Mr. Simmons drove a truck into a building located along Route 36 near Looneyville, Roane County, West Virginia, killing a woman and seriously injuring a man while they slept. The police arrived at the scene approximately twenty-five minutes later and instructed the first responders to transport Mr. Simmons to Roane General Hospital ("RGH") to be evaluated for any injuries. Police arrested Mr. Simmons between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m. and subsequently presented him to the magistrate between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. that same morning.

On January 29, 2014, a Roane County Grand Jury issued a two count Indictment charging Mr. Simmons with violation of West Virginia Code § 17C-5-2(a), DUI Resulting in Death and West Virginia Code § 17C-5-2(c), DUI Resulting in Bodily Injury.

On May 27, 2014, counsel for Mr. Simmons filed a motion to suppress all "statements made by the defendant," asserting that "[a]ny statement taken from the defendant was not free and voluntary." The motion was not specific as to what statement or statements Mr. Simmons was seeking to suppress. Two days later, on May 29, 2017, the circuit court held a pre-trial hearing for the presentation of arguments on the motion to suppress.

Sergeant Matthew "Bo" Williams ("Deputy Williams")1 testified regarding the second statement he obtained from Mr. Simmons after his arrest. Deputy Williams testified that he arrested Mr. Simmons at RGH between 4:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. With respect to the time period between Mr. Simmons's arrest and his presentment to the magistrate, Deputy Williams testified as follows:

801 S.E.2d 535
He was taken to the sheriff's department, placed in the holding cell while I—I believe while I worked on the search warrant for the vehicle, and then after that he was taken from the cell, we went back into the kitchen area, conducted our interview and then he was, I believe, taken back to the cell while I finished my criminal complaint, and then we went to magistrate court.

* * *

And our—the processing—our processing is basically a criminal complaint, fingerprints, CDR, and then they go to magistrate court. And then they're in—anything else we do after the fact so that we don't waste a lot of time before hand and waste people's time, judge's time and stuff.

With respect to the interview itself, Deputy Williams testified that he filled out the Miranda2 form and read the entirety of the document to Mr. Simmons in the presence of State Police Sergeant Fred Hammick. He testified that the interview took place in the "kitchen/interrogation" room at the table in the Roane County Sheriff's Department. According to Deputy Williams, the process he uses when taking a statement is to read each question and put a check-mark beside that line and turn the paper over to the suspect to sign by each line. He testified that when he is finished with the whole form, he puts an "X" by the signature line for the waiver of rights and turns the form over to the suspect to sign and date. Deputy Williams testified that he advised Mr. Simmons at the time of the interview that he was under arrest. He further testified that Mr. Simmons signed the waiver form and gave a second statement confessing to driving the truck into the building off Route 36, killing Kelly Casto and injuring William Cottrell. Deputy Williams indicated that he recorded the statement on a disc.

In response to various questions about how he conducted the interview, Deputy Williams testified as follows:

Q: Was Mr. Simmons handcuffed at the time?

A: I don't believe so.

* * *

Q: Did he ever ask to stop the interview?

A: No, sir.

* * *

Q: At any time did he ask this statement to stop?

A: No.

* * *

Q: Were there any threats or promises made to him?

A: No, sir.

* * *

Q: During the course of the statement, did you promise him anything, lenience, or that you [would] put in a good word [with] the prosecuting attorney?

A: I don't believe so.

As to questions regarding Mr. Simmons's demeanor, Deputy Williams reported that he was emotional, but not belligerent or extremely intoxicated. He further explained that Mr. Simmons could understand questions, initial the forms, sign his name, and read the Miranda form, all without difficulty.

Deputy Williams testified that he recorded the second statement taken at 7:30 a.m., and that the magistrates are usually available between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. When asked what time he took Mr. Simmons to the magistrate, Deputy Williams stated that he first had to finish processing paperwork after the interview, but it was "anywhere between 8:00 and 10:00 probably." As a final question, the prosecutor asked Deputy Williams, "[w]as there any intended delay in taking him up to the magistrate?" Mr. Simmons responded, "[n]o, sir."

Thereafter, the circuit court ruled that the second statement could be admitted into evidence at trial. In response to Mr. Simmons's argument that the State violated the prompt presentment rule, the court reasoned:

There is no evidence here that this man was impaired to the extent that he could not understand what his constitutional rights were. There's no evidence of police mistreatment, extended delays, any of that. What the policeman was doing here [were] legitimate law enforcement activities.
801 S.E.2d 536
The delay was occasioned by the requirement[s] under state law that the policeman process the person who is arrested and that includes fingerprinting and other steps in the processing of a person that's arrested. All that's mandated by state law. In addition, some of the delay here was obviously occasioned by the application for these two warrants or at least one of the warrants. So there's no evidence that this man was promised anything or threatened in any way [or that] the police used other unlawful [i]nducements.

The trial took place on February 10, 11, and 12, 2015. The State called West Virginia State Police Corporal Pete Fisher to testify about the circumstances surrounding the first statement taken from Mr. Simmons. Corporal Fisher first saw Mr. Simmons in the emergency room. Corporal Fisher testified that he did not arrest or detain Mr. Simmons, but he did take a statement from him. After the first statement was admitted into evidence without objection from Mr. Simmons, Corporal Fisher answered questions from defense counsel regarding whether Mr. Simmons drove the truck that night. Corporal Fisher explained:

When I first got there, I asked him what happened this evening, he said—and this is where the statement comes in, when I asked him, he says—and this is prior to taking the statement—that I was driving my truck and I got in an accident. I then get my paper out, I write the statement of everything that was written there.

West Virginia State Police Sergeant Fred Hammick also testified at trial that he assisted Deputy Williams. Sergeant Hammick affirmed that he performed the search of the pickup truck and that he was present when Deputy Williams recorded the second statement. He testified that "... [Deputy Williams] wanted to do an interview with the suspected driver of the vehicle, and we did a search warrant as well."

At the close of the State's...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1 practice notes
  • State v. Skidmore, No. 18-0139
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 30, 2020
    ...coercion necessary for a prompt presentment violation. We agree. This Court recently explained in State v. Simmons 239 W. Va. 515, 529, 801 S.E.2d 530, 544 (2017), that[o]ur prior decisions raising a violation of the prompt presentment rule have drawn a clear distinction between appropriate......
1 cases
  • State v. Skidmore, No. 18-0139
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 30, 2020
    ...coercion necessary for a prompt presentment violation. We agree. This Court recently explained in State v. Simmons 239 W. Va. 515, 529, 801 S.E.2d 530, 544 (2017), that[o]ur prior decisions raising a violation of the prompt presentment rule have drawn a clear distinction between appropriate......

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