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State of Ohio v. Bruce Hodge

September 30, 2011

STATE OF OHIO
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
BRUCE HODGE
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



(Criminal appeal from Municipal Court) T.C. NO. TRC0907537

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Froelich, J.

Cite as State v. Hodge,

OPINION

{¶1} Bruce Hodge was found guilty by a jury of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OVI), refusing to submit to a chemical test to determine whether he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he had a prior conviction of OVI within twenty years, and driving under suspension. He appeals from his convictions.

{¶2} On July 21, 2009, Hodge was stopped for driving under suspension after a police officer ran a routine check of his license plate. During the stop, police officers detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage and observed other indicia that Hodge was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They conducted one field sobriety test and took Hodge to the police station jail, where he refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. Hodge was cited for OVI (with two prior convictions), for refusing to submit to the test, and for driving under suspension.

{¶3} The charges were tried to a jury in the Fairborn Municipal Court, and Hodge was found guilty on all three charges. The OVI charge and refusal to submit to a chemical test charge merged. The trial court sentenced Hodge to concurrent sentences of 365 days in jail for the OVI and 180 days for driving under suspension, with 180 days and 170 days suspended, respectively, on the condition that he have no similar violations for five years. His driver's license was suspended for five years, and he was fined $850. Hodge appeals from his convictions, raising two assignments of error. We address the assignments in the order that facilitates our discussion.

{¶4} The second assignment of error states:

{¶5} "THERE EXISTED INSUFFICIENT INDICIA OF IMPAIRMENT AND THE JURY'S VERDICTS WERE AGAINST THE MANIFEST WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE."

{¶6} Hodge contends that his conviction for OVI was supported by insufficient evidence and was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

{¶7} An argument based on the sufficiency of the evidence challenges whether the State presented adequate evidence on each element of the offense to allow the case to go to the jury or to sustain the verdict as a matter of law. State v. Thompkins (1999), 78 Ohio St.3d 380, 386. "An appellate court's function when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction is to examine the evidence admitted at trial to determine whether such evidence, if believed, would convince the average mind of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Jenks (1991), 61 Ohio St.3d 259, paragraph two of the syllabus.

{¶8} In contrast, when reviewing a judgment under a manifest-weight standard of review "'[t]he court, reviewing the entire record, weighs the evidence and all reasonable inferences, considers the credibility of witnesses and determines whether in resolving conflicts in the evidence, the jury clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the conviction must be reversed and a new trial ordered. The discretionary power to grant a new trial should be exercised only in the exceptional case in which the evidence weighs heavily against the conviction.'" Thompkins, 78 Ohio St.3d at 387, quoting State v. Martin (1983), 20 Ohio App.3d 172, 175.

{¶9} At trial, the State offered the following evidence:

{¶10} On July 21, 2009, Fairborn Police Officer Brian J. Neiford "conducted a random BMV inquiry on the license plate" of a vehicle while it was parked outside the Sugar Melons bar. As a result of the inquiry, Officer Neiford discovered that the owner of the car, Bruce Hodge, was under a "failure to reinstate" suspension of his driver's license. When a man matching Hodge's description drove the vehicle away from the bar, Officer Neiford made a traffic stop. He did not observe any other traffic violations before making the stop.

{ΒΆ11} When Officer Neiford questioned Hodge about the suspension, Hodge presented a paper stating that he had driving privileges to and from work and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; Hodge claimed that he was on his way to an AA meeting. The paper indicated that Hodge was not allowed to consume alcoholic beverages before driving under the privileges. ...


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