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State v. Chaney

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
STEVEN W. CHANEY, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Cheryl E. Traum, District Associate Judge.

         Steven Chaney appeals his convictions for driving while barred as a habitual offender, assault on persons engaged in certain occupations, driving under suspension, and interference with official acts.

          Stuart G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, JUDGE.

         A concerned citizen called 911 after seeing a man, later identified as Steven Chaney, driving a vehicle "all over the road." A Bettendorf patrol officer arrived at the scene and pulled the keys from the ignition. Chaney got out of the vehicle and "came at him." Chaney also kicked a police sergeant.

         The State charged Chaney with driving while barred as a habitual offender, two counts of assault on persons engaged in certain occupations, two counts of driving under suspension, and two counts of interference with official acts. See Iowa Code §§ 321.218, 321A.32(1), 321.555, 321.561, 708.3A(4), 719.1(1)(b) (2016). A jury found him guilty as charged.

         On appeal, Chaney contends he was denied a fair trial based on "[t]he State's repeated and surreptitious references to alcohol and intoxication over the duration of the trial." The State preliminarily responds with an error preservation concern.

         Chaney did not object to the alcohol-related evidence as it was introduced at trial. The State argues he was required to do so to preserve error. See State v. Martin, 704 N.W.2d 665, 669 (Iowa 2005) ("Generally, when a party makes no objection to the reception of evidence at trial, the matter will not be reviewed on appeal." (quoting Wirtanen v. Provin, 293 N.W.2d 252, 257 (Iowa 1980))). However, Chaney filed a pretrial motion in limine to exclude the phrase "intoxicated driver, " a beer can recovered by the first officer, and "any testimony or evidence regarding 'alcohol.'" The district court summarily denied the motion. The ruling left no doubt about the court's view on the admissibility of the evidence. We conclude the ruling sufficed to preserve error. See State v. Daly, 623 N.W.2d 799, 800 (Iowa 2001). We proceed to the merits.

         Chaney argues the prosecutor's efforts to "[s]hepard[] evidence before the jury of [his] intoxication is of no relevance to the case." See Shawhan v. Polk Cty., 420 N.W.2d 808, 810 (Iowa 1988) (expressing "serious doubts whether the evidence . . . would be relevant to any material issue"). He also asserts the probative value of the evidence was outweighed by its prejudicial effect. Finally, he contends the evidence deprived him of a fair trial. We begin and end with the relevancy question. Evidence is relevant when it has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determ ination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Iowa R. Evid. 5.401.

         The State did not charge Chaney with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The State charged him with driving while barred, driving while under suspension, assault on peace officers, and interference with official acts.

         The jury was instructed that driving while barred requires the State to prove Chaney operated a motor vehicle on a public roadway with a barred driver's license. The jury was further instructed that driving under suspension required the State to prove Chaney's "right to operate a motor vehicle in the State of Iowa had been suspended for having been declared a habitual traffic violator and/or failure to pay fines owed to the State of Iowa." The assault charge required proof of the following elements:

1. On or about the 3rd day of June, 2016, the defendant did an act which was intended to cause pain or injury, result in physical contact which was insulting or offensive, or place [the officer] in fear of an immediate physical contact which would have been ...

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