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State v. Jeffries

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

May 23, 2018

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
PAULA JEFFRIES, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal From: Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas No. B-160916

          Joseph T. Deters, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney, and Sean M. Donovan, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, for Plaintiff-Appellee,

          Michaela M. Stagnaro, for Defendant-Appellant.



         {¶1} Paula Jeffries appeals her convictions for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence ("OVI") and driving under an OVI suspension. She argues that the trial court erred by allowing the prosecutor to exclude a potential juror based on race in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986). She also argues that her convictions were not supported by sufficient evidence and were against the manifest weight of the evidence. We conclude that her assignments of error have no merit, so we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         The Trial

         {¶2} At trial, Jeffries stipulated that she had three prior OVI convictions within six years of the current offenses. In addition, she agreed that at the time of the current offenses, her driver's license had been suspended for a prior OVI conviction, and that she had been convicted of driving under an OVI suspension within the previous six years.

         {¶3} A police officer testified that he was driving his patrol vehicle at about 2:45 a.m. when a black sedan driving in the opposite direction crossed the center line and came directly at him. The officer was forced to maneuver his vehicle to the curb to avoid a collision with the oncoming car. Then he activated his vehicle's overhead lights and began to pursue the sedan.

         {¶4} The driver of the sedan made a wide turn onto another street before coming to a stop. The officer stopped his vehicle behind the sedan and began to get out, when the sedan driver suddenly drove away at a high rate of speed.

         {¶5} Based on the officer's knowledge of the road, he knew that the sedan driver would probably not be able to navigate the upcoming sharp turns in the road at that speed. When the officer got back into his vehicle, he heard the sounds of a crash through his vehicle's open window.

         {¶6} The officer drove less than a hundred yards to the site of the crash. The sedan had gone through a guardrail and into trees, and smoke was coming from it. Even though the ground was snow-covered, the officer was concerned that the sedan's engine would catch underlying dry leaves and grass clippings on fire. He approached the sedan quickly. At first, he was unable to see anyone in the sedan due to its tinted windows. As he got to the driver's door, he used his flashlight to look in the window. He saw Jeffries jump out of the driver's seat and climb between the front bucket seats into the back seat of the sedan. He radioed that the driver was climbing into the back seat.

         {¶7} The sedan was off the roadway, wedged between a guardrail and trees. The driver's door could not be opened enough for the officer to reach in and turn off the engine. Neither of the passenger-side doors could be opened because they were blocked by trees, and none of the sedan's windows were open. The officer opened the rear door on the driver's side and, upon seeing that Jeffries was uninjured, told her to get out. At that time, the officer testified, his only concern was to get Jeffries safely out of the sedan before a fire occurred.

         {¶8} The officer walked Jeffries back onto the roadway to a safe distance from the crashed sedan. He noticed that Jeffries had bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcohol about her. He described Jeffries's speech as "slurred and excited at times." Jeffries told the officer that she had not been driving. She said that a guy had been driving and had run away. The officer asked who and where the guy was, and she said she did not know. Jeffries informed the officer that she was urinating on herself.

         {¶9} The officer asked Jeffries for her identification. Instead of getting her identification, Jeffries got her cell phone out of her purse and began using it. She told the officer that the sedan belonged to her sister. Jeffries urinated again as she stood next to the officer. The officer asked Jeffries to recite the alphabet, but she refused and insisted that she had not been driving. The officer testified that, in his opinion, Jeffries was under ...

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