from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Joel W.
defendant appeals her conviction for operating a motor
vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, claiming
insufficient evidence. AFFIRMED.
Blair III of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle Hanson, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., Potterfield, J., and Blane, S.J.
found Kendra Kohlmeyer guilty of operating a motor vehicle
while under the influence of alcohol (OWI), third offense.
She claims (1) the verdict was not supported by substantial
evidence in the record and (2) the trial court erred in
denying her motion for new trial where the jury verdict was
contrary to the weight of the evidence. Based upon our
review, we find substantial evidence supports the jury
verdict and affirm.
Facts and procedural background
evening of November 30, 2014, Kohlmeyer joined her boyfriend,
Kasey Birkenbile, and her brother at a bar in Davenport.
Birkenbile had been drinking for three to four hours and was
intoxicated. The three drank a pitcher of beer after
Kohlmeyer arrived. After finishing the pitcher of beer, they
decided to go to Kohlmeyer's brother's residence.
Kohlmeyer's brother drove a blue Chevy pickup truck.
Kohlmeyer drove Birkenbile's white Chevy Equinox SUV with
Birkenbile in the passenger seat. On the way, Kohlmeyer
rear-ended her brother's pickup, which had stopped for a
stop sign. As a result of the collision, the SUV's
airbags deployed, Birkenbile's head struck the windshield
"pretty hard" so that he was injured, and the SUV
motorists immediately came upon the collision scene. One
motorist, Jennifer Agent, did not see the collision, but she
did notice people yelling and doubled back to check on what
was the scene of the accident. Agent saw a woman arguing with
a man on the side of the road. When Agent returned, the
darker vehicle involved in the accident was gone. Another
motorist, Charles Jackson, identified Kohlmeyer at trial as
the person he saw exit from the driver's side of the
white SUV and observed she was "kind of like stumbling
and stuff like that." Jackson also saw Kohlmeyer get
into the blue pickup, which sped away from the scene. Jackson
called 911 and followed the pickup to its destination; then
he returned to the crash scene and reported to police the
Kory Griffin responded to the crash scene, where he spoke
with Birkenbile and the other witnesses. After approximately
thirty to forty-five minutes, Officer Griffin proceeded to
the vicinity of Kohlmeyer's brother's residence to
investigate the blue Chevy pickup truck. Police found the
blue pickup truck with fresh rear-end damage. Kohlmeyer, her
brother, and another man were located near the blue pickup
truck. Officer Griffin conducted an investigation. He
observed Kohlmeyer smelled of alcohol, her speech was slow
and slurred, and her eyes were red, bloodshot, and watery.
She had difficulty keeping her balance and almost fell over
when walking to the patrol car. Kohlmeyer admitted that she
was intoxicated but maintained that she had not been
driving. Kohlmeyer failed numerous sobriety tests
administered by Griffin at the police station and declined to
provide a breath sample for chemical testing. Based upon his
full investigation, including interviews with witnesses at
the scene, Officer Griffin, a field sobriety test instructor
with approximately 200 prior OWI investigations, testified
that, in his opinion, Kohlmeyer was intoxicated when
operating the vehicle.
December 23, 2014, a trial information was filed charging
Kohlmeyer with Count I-operating a motor vehicle while under
the influence of alcohol, third offense, in violation of Iowa
Code section 321J.2 (2014); and Count II-leaving the scene of
a personal injury accident in violation of Iowa Code section
321.261(1) and (2). On May 18 and 19, 2015, a jury trial was
held on Count I. Following the close of the State's
evidence, Kohlmeyer's attorney made a motion for judgment
of acquittal, arguing that the State had failed to present
sufficient evidence that Kohlmeyer was intoxicated at the
time she was operating the white SUV. The trial court denied
the motion. Kohlmeyer did not present any evidence, and after
closing arguments, the jury returned a guilty verdict.
Kohlmeyer then filed a motion for new trial in which she
argued that the jury's verdict was not supported by
substantial evidence. The trial court denied the motion and
Standard of review
review a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence for
correction of errors at law. State v. Howse, 875
N.W.2d 684, 688 (Iowa 2016). "The jury's findings of
guilt are binding on appeal if supported by substantial
evidence." State v. Hopkins, 576 N.W.2d 374,
377 (Iowa 1998). "Evidence is substantial if it would
convince a rational trier of fact the defendant is guilty
beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Jorgensen,758 N.W.2d 830, 834 (Iowa 2008). "We review the evidence
in the light most favorable to the State, including
legitimate inferences and presumptions that may fairly and
reasonably be deduced from the evidence in the record."
State v. Webb,648 N.W.2d 72, 76 (Iowa 2002);