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Wall v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

March 27, 2009

Claude D. WALL, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Appellee.

Page 1171

Linda K. Wilson, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Blair M. Christensen, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Talis J. Colberg, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before : COATS, Chief Judge, and MANNHEIMER and BOLGER, Judges.

OPINION

MANNHEIMER, Judge.

Claude D. Wall appeals his conviction for felony driving under the influence.[1] He contends that the evidence presented at his trial was legally insufficient to establish that he was operating the vehicle, or (alternatively) that the vehicle in question was operable. For the reasons explained here, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient on both of these issues. Wall also claims that the trial judge should have instructed the jury on the defense of necessity. We conclude that the evidence presented at Wall's trial did not support this defense. Accordingly, we affirm Wall's conviction for felony driving under the influence.

Underlying facts

In the early morning of June 5, 2006, Alaska State Trooper Lawrence Erickson was on patrol in the Soldotna area. Erickson saw a car stopped at the intersection of Bennett Court and Kalifornsky Beach Road. The car was in the right lane of Bennett Court, with its front end pointing toward the intersection.

When Erickson approached the vehicle, he found Wall sitting in the driver's seat, wearing a seatbelt. Wall was holding an open beer in his right hand, and he had the keys to the car in his left hand.

When Erickson questioned him, Wall admitted that the vehicle was his, and that he had removed the keys from the ignition. Wall also admitted that he did not have a driver's license. (Wall's license was suspended.) However, Wall claimed that he had not been driving the car: he told the trooper that a friend of his had been driving, but the friend had abandoned him there.

Wall showed signs of intoxication; he was disoriented, and he had a hard time focusing on the trooper.

While Erickson was talking to Wall, three more people arrived on the scene by cab: Royce Kenny Oder, Josephine Mestas, and Rita Lindsey. These people had apparently been with Wall earlier in the evening, and one or two of these people contradicted Wall's account: they told Erickson that Wall had been driving the vehicle.

Evidently the four people ( i.e., Wall and the three others) had been out for the evening. They got into an argument, and Oder (who was driving at that time) turned the vehicle around in the road rather quickly, and the car stalled. Despite Oder's and Wall's efforts, they could not get the vehicle started again, so everyone except Wall left the area on foot. Wall stayed with the vehicle-which is where Trooper Erickson found him.

The State charged Wall with felony driving under the influence, as well as driving with a suspended license. At trial, the parties stipulated that Wall's blood alcohol content was .156 percent ( i.e., almost twice the legal limit), that Wall's driver's license was suspended, and that Wall knew that his license was suspended.

During trial, Wall's attorney asked the trial judge, Superior Court Judge Harold M. Brown, to instruct the jury on the defense of necessity ( i.e., on the claim that Wall operated the vehicle out of necessity even though he was intoxicated). When Judge Brown asked Wall's attorney what harm Wall was trying to prevent, the defense attorney responded that Wall had been trying to move the car out of the roadway so that it ...


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