Stewart v. State, A06A0782.

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Citation634 S.E.2d 141,280 Ga. App. 366
Docket NumberNo. A06A0782.,A06A0782.
PartiesSTEWART v. The STATE.
Decision Date10 July 2006
280 Ga. App. 366
634 S.E.2d 141
No. A06A0782.
Court of Appeals of Georgia.
July 10, 2006.

Page 142


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Head, Thomas, Webb & Willis, William C. Head, Atlanta, for appellant.

Shawn E. Lagrua, Solicitor-General, Ellen G. Maurice, Assistant Solicitor-General, for appellee.

ADAMS, Judge.

Chaka Rashad Stewart appeals from his conviction on one count of driving with an unlawful alcohol concentration and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of OCGA § 40-6-391.

Viewed in the light most favorable to support the verdict, the evidence showed that early on the morning of June 20, 2004, Officer Robert Adair of the Decatur Police Department saw Stewart run a red light at the intersection of Clairmont Avenue and Scott Boulevard in DeKalb County. The officer initiated a traffic stop and noticed that Stewart's brake lights were inoperable when he pulled to a stop. After approaching the car and speaking with Stewart, Officer Adair detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from Stewart's person. He also observed that Stewart had droopy eyelids and small pupils. And when Stewart exited his car, he walked slowly and methodically, using the vehicle to brace himself so that he would not lose his balance. The officer asked Stewart if he had been drinking, and he said that he had a few drinks earlier in the evening at a wedding.

Officer Adair administered field sobriety tests and determined that Stewart exhibited four of the six possible clues on the horizontal [280 Ga. App. 367] gaze nystagmus (HGN) test; four out of eight clues on the walk-and-turn test, and two out of four clues on the one-leg stand test. Stewart also tested positive on the alco-sensor for the presence of alcohol. The officer determined, based upon these results and his own training and experience, that Stewart was a less safe driver and arrested him for DUI and other traffic offenses.

After Officer Adair read Stewart the implied consent warning, he consented to take a breath test. He was transported to the county jail where the officer administered a breath test on an Intoxilyzer 5000 machine. Stewart's blood alcohol content measured 0.140 grams on the first test and 0.141 grams on the second.

1. Stewart contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the results of his Intoxilyzer 5000 tests because, he argues, the Intoxilyzer 5000 as used in Georgia does not meet the requirements for admissibility as scientific evidence under Harper v. State, 249 Ga. 519, 525, 292 S.E.2d 389 (1982). Stewart bases this argument on his expert's testimony that an officer administering the test can visually observe the test readings and manipulate them by giving verbal instructions to the test subject to ensure that the two breath samples match within the 0.02 agreement required by OCGA § 40-6-392.

But 15 years ago, the Supreme Court of Georgia held that results from the Intoxilyzer 3000, predecessor to the Intoxilyzer 5000 used in this case, meet the standard for admissibility as scientifically reliable evidence under Harper and its progeny. Lattarulo v. State, 261 Ga. 124, 126-127(3), 401 S.E.2d 516 (1991). Stewart fails to cite to Lattarulo, and makes no effort to distinguish the case. Rather, he relies upon the testimony of his expert to argue that the results of his breath tests should be excluded because the Intoxilyzer 5000 test has some margin of error. But as the Supreme Court noted in Lattarulo, "no procedure is infallible. An accused may always introduce evidence of the possibility of error or circumstances that might have caused the machine to malfunction. Such evidence would relate to the weight rather than the admissibility of breathalyzer results." Id. at 126(3), 401 S.E.2d 516. Accordingly, Stewart's argument goes to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility, and that issue was for determination by the trial court acting as factfinder. Whittaker v. State, 279 Ga.App. 148. 150-151(3), 630 S.E.2d 560 (2006) (rejecting a similar argument regarding the Intoxilyzer 5000).

2. Stewart next argues that Officer Adair did not administer the field sobriety tests in the standardized manner, which compromised their reliability, rendering them inadmissible

Page 144

under Harper.1 He [280 Ga. App. 368] asserts that although Officer Adair was required to administer the field sobriety tests under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines, the officer is not NHTSA-certified. He also contends that the officer failed to comply with the guidelines for administering the tests because (1) the surface upon which the tests were performed was not smooth and level; (2) Officer Adair refused to allow Stewart to remove his shoes, which were not appropriate for performing the evaluations; (3) he failed to take into account Stewart's height and weight in evaluating his performance; and (4) the officer failed to ask Stewart if he had any medical conditions that might affect the validity of the tests. He notes that his expert testified that failing to ask about such medical conditions could compromise the tests. Stewart's father and the passenger in the car that night also testified that Stewart had previously undergone two knee surgeries, the last six years prior to the incident, and had problems with his neck.

While Officer Adair was not NHTSA-certified, he stated that he was a POST-certified2 officer, with training in the standardized field sobriety tests from a certified NHTSA instructor. Additionally, he had attended a drug recognition expert course. He testified that he had used his POST training to make over 200 DUI arrests in the last four years and had administered field sobriety tests over 500 times. Officer Adair stated that in administering the field sobriety tests to Stewart, he attempted to follow his training precisely.

As an initial matter, we note that Stewart failed to cite any authority requiring that an officer be NHTSA-certified before administering field sobriety evaluations. Because Officer Adair's testimony demonstrates that he had NHTSA-specific training and extensive experience in performing these tests, we conclude that his lack of NHTSA certification is not a ground for excluding the field sobriety evidence in this case.

Moreover, this Court has held that the walk-and-turn test and the one-leg stand test are not subject to the...

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6 cases
  • Mitchell v. State, S17A0459
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • June 26, 2017
    ...test, or a scientific test which must meet standards of validity and reliability, such as the HGN test. See generally Stewart v. State, 280 Ga. App. 366, 368-369 (2), 634 S.E.2d 141 (2006) ; State v. Pastorini, 222 Ga. App. 316, 318-319 (2), 474 S.E.2d 122 (1996).3 In the case before us, th......
  • Rowell v. State, A11A1231.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • November 15, 2011
    ...test when she was in high heels goes to the weight of the evidence and not to its admissibility. See [312 Ga.App. 563] Stewart v. State, 280 Ga.App. 366, 368–369(2), 634 S.E.2d 141 (2006). Thus, the trial court was entitled to consider the results of these tests in ruling upon the motion to......
  • Miller v. the State., A10A2269.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • February 2, 2011
    ...than the admissibility of breathalyzer results.” Lattarulo v. State, 261 Ga. 124, 126(3), 401 S.E.2d 516 (1991). See Stewart v. State, 280 Ga.App. 366, 367(1), 634 S.E.2d 141 (2006). As to Miller's remaining convictions for failure to maintain lane, speeding, and improper left turn, the dep......
  • Eastern Car Liner, Ltd. v. Kyles, No. A06A0677.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • July 10, 2006
    ...judgment. We now find that although the ISM Code may have increased a ship owner's duties by changing the custom and practice in the [280 Ga. App. 366] maritime industry, it would not have altered the duties for ships such as the Reina Rosa until July 1, 2002, when the provisions of the ISM......
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