from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, John D.
defendant appeals his convictions for eluding in the first
degree and operating while intoxicated.
Conrad Douglas, Sioux City, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kelli Huser, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
bench trial for eluding in the first degree and operating
while intoxicated, Levi Hamilton admitted to not stopping his
Chevy Malibu when police officers signaled him to do so in
the early morning hours of March 4, 2016. He also admitted to
smoking marijuana "every day usually." But he
testified March 4 was the one day he had abstained. The
district court did not credit Hamilton's denial and found
him guilty on both counts. On appeal, Hamilton claims the
State offered insufficient evidence he was under the
influence of marijuana. Because the record contains proof
beyond a reasonable doubt that Hamilton violated Iowa Code
section 321J.2 (2016), we affirm his convictions.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
two in the morning, undercover officers saw Hamilton's
Malibu park three feet from the curb outside a Sioux City
house they suspected of hosting illicit drug activity. The
Malibu's four occupants went inside the house for about
fifteen minutes. The undercover officers, driving an unmarked
car, followed the Malibu when it pulled away. Officer Dan
Wagner recalled Hamilton driving the Malibu southbound
"completely in what would be considered the oncoming
vehicle's position, within a foot of the vehicles that
were parked northbound. . . . It nearly looked like he was
going to hit them."
uniformed officer in a marked car showed up and activated its
overhead lights and sirens, Hamilton sped away, leading the
police on a highspeed chase through the residential
neighborhood. Officers estimated Hamilton's speed reached
sixty-five to seventy miles per hour in a thirty
mile-per-hour zone. Hamilton abandoned the car in the back of
an apartment complex and fled on foot. Officers pursued with
the help of a K-9 unit. When officers found Hamilton, they
noticed he was unsteady on his feet, "he was stumbling a
bit, " and his eyes were red. Sioux City Officer Mike
Simoni smelled the "very strong" odor of burnt
marijuana coming from Hamilton. Officer Simoni transported
Hamilton to the Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP) office
in the Woodbury County jail, where the officer detected the
smell of burnt marijuana coming from Hamilton's breath as
they were carrying on a conversation. Officer Simoni, who had
training as a drug recognition expert, testified Hamilton did
not cooperate with tests designed to measure impairment.
Hamilton also refused to provide a urine sample.
State charged Hamilton with eluding in the first degree,
class "D" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section
321.279(3), as an habitual offender, and operating while
intoxicated,  a serious misdemeanor, in violation of
section 321J.2. Hamilton waived a jury and appeared before
the district court for trial in August 2016. After hearing
testimony from several police officers, as well as Hamilton
himself, the district court found Hamilton guilty on both
counts. Hamilton now challenges those convictions.
Scope and Standard of Review
review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence for
correction of legal error. See State v. Hansen, 750
N.W.2d 111, 112 (Iowa 2008). We view the record in the light
most favorable to the State, and we make all legitimate
inferences and presumptions that may reasonably be inferred
from the evidence. See State v. Quinn, 691 N.W.2d
403, 407 (Iowa 2005). We will uphold the district court's
rulings as long as substantial evidence supports them.
See State v. Howse, 875 N.W.2d 684, 688 (Iowa 2016).
"Evidence is substantial if it would convince a rational
trier of fact the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt." Hansen, 750 N.W.2d at 112.