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Adams v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

October 2, 2015

NATHAN L. ADAMS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Palmer, Vanessa H. White, Judge. Trial Court No. 3PA-11-1723 CR.

John P. Cashion, Cashion Gilmore LLC, under contract with the Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Kenneth M. Rosenstein, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 991

ALLARD, Judge

A jury convicted Nathan L. Adams of felony driving under the influence of clonazepam, a controlled substance.[1]

Adams appeals his conviction, arguing that the trial court instructed the jury in a manner that allowed it to convict him of driving under the influence even if his impaired driving was due to his physical exhaustion rather than his ingestion of clonazepam. We conclude that the court's instructions adequately conveyed to the jury that it could not convict Adams unless (1) he was impaired to the extent that he could not operate a motor vehicle with the caution characteristic of a person of ordinary prudence and (2) this impairment was proximately caused by his ingestion of clonazepam.

Adams also argues that the superior court erred when it refused to exclude the testimony of the State's expert witness after the State failed to provide timely notice of the expert's testimony. Because Adams rejected the trial court's offer of a continuance, and because he has not shown that the offered continuance was insufficient to cure any prejudice caused by the State's late notice of its expert witness, we affirm the trial court's ruling as within its discretion.

Page 992

Lastly, Adams argues that the State's evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for driving under the influence. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, we conclude that there was legally sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict.

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the superior court.

Facts and proceedings

On July 1, 2011, three individuals called 911 to report Adams's erratic and dangerous driving. They each reported seeing Adams's car swerving across the road, running multiple people into the ditch, and almost hitting a family van and a truck.

Alaska State Trooper Jesse Lopez responded to these reports and observed Adams's car cross the fog line and drift back across the median of the Parks Highway. The car then entered a ditch, struck a culvert, entered a second road, and almost hit a garbage truck.

When Trooper Lopez contacted the driver, Nathan Adams, he was struggling to put the vehicle into park. Adams displayed other signs of impairment: he was sluggish, his speech was slurred, and he staggered when he walked. Adams told Lopez that he only had six hours of sleep and that he was tired.

Adams performed poorly on field sobriety tests, but when he submitted to a breath test, the test showed that he had not consumed any alcohol.

Adams told the troopers that he had a doctor's prescription for clonazepam,[2] and the troopers recovered two empty bottles of clonazepam in the center console of his vehicle. Also located in the console was a marijuana pipe and a small amount of marijuana (5.82 grams).

Approximately seven hours after Adams was arrested, the troopers obtained a blood sample from him. The initial test of that blood sample revealed no controlled substances. But a second test shortly before trial revealed .03 milligrams of clonazepam per liter of Adams's blood. At trial, the State's expert testified, without contradiction, that this amount of clonazepam was sufficient to impair a driver's balance, cognition, and reaction time, and that Adams likely had more clonazepam in his system at the time he was driving.

Because Adams had previous convictions for driving under the influence, the State charged him with a felony offense.[3] He was also charged with sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance based on the marijuana found in his car.[4] Adams remained ...


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