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State v. Sanchez-Casco

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ISAI SANCHEZ-CASCO, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark D. Cleve, Judge.

         Isai Sanchez-Casco appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated, third offense.

          Christopher Raker and Stuart G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, PC, Dubuque, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         Isai Sanchez-Casco appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated (OWI), third offense. He argues the district court abused its discretion in allowing expert testimony on intoxication, and he appeals the denials of his motion for judgment of acquittal and motion for new trial. We find the State presented an adequate foundation for the expert testimony. We also find the verdict is supported by substantial evidence and the court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion for new trial. Therefore, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Procedure

         At about 1:30 or 1:40 a.m. on May 16, 2017, Isai Sanchez-Casco parked a black Chrysler next to a gas pump at a convenience store in Davenport. He entered the store, picked up a bottle of beer, and proceeded to the counter to make his purchase. The clerk who worked behind the counter at the time asked for his identification. He responded by asking her for a cigar. She again asked for his identification, and he asked, "If I don't give you my ID, will you be arrested?" He then gave her his identification, and she completed the transaction. He left the store by kicking the first exit door and then the second, opened his bottle of beer, threw the cap in the parking lot, put the open bottle on top of the black Chrysler, and began pumping gas. The clerk called the police after witnessing this because "it's not normal to open up a bottle of beer and put it on top of your car while you're pumping gas. It's just not safe. And open container, you know." When Sanchez-Casco noticed her on the phone, he extended his middle fingers at her and "decided to do his own display around the parking lot for a minute" by "driving backwards through the whole parking lot." He then parked, reentered the store, called her a "motherf**king c**t," threw something like plastic silverware at her, and "stormed out again." Finally, "[h]e did a tour around the parking lot again, . . . proceeded to get out and throw a coffee mug at" the store window-shattering the mug-and drove away. The encounter was captured on store surveillance video.[1]On cross-examination, the clerk testified she had worked as a bartender for over twenty years, and she did not smell alcohol on Sanchez-Casco or otherwise think he was intoxicated when he was in the store.

         At or around 1:42 a.m., Sergeant Janet Martin with the Davenport Police Department received a call regarding the clerk's complaint. The call included descriptions of Sanchez-Casco and the black Chrysler with a partial license plate number. Sergeant Martin was several blocks away from the convenience store at the time, and she began driving toward the store hoping to encounter the described vehicle along the way. As she neared the vicinity of the convenience store, she noticed a black Chrysler with a matching partial plate parked at a second convenience store across the street from the first store. She stopped to investigate, and she found Sanchez-Casco walking out of the second store. She did not see anyone with him or near the Chrysler. She approached Sanchez-Casco, patted him down, and searched his pockets with his consent.[2] She found a key to the Chrysler in his pocket. She noticed he was swaying, had a strong odor of alcohol coming from him, had bloodshot eyes, and was exhibiting erratic behavior. Officer Brenton Joyce soon arrived, and he observed Sanchez-Casco display erratic behavior, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, impaired balance, odor of alcohol, dilated pupils, profuse sweating, and nervous tics.

         Sergeant Martin called Officer Jennifer Brewer to the scene because of her expertise in recognizing alcohol and drug intoxication. Officer Brewer testified all officers are trained to detect intoxication generally and can perform standard field sobriety testing but they call her when they suspect intoxication by something other than alcohol. To identify intoxication and the category of drug or alcohol causing it, she uses a twelve-step process, which involves "looking at the totality of the circumstances," including "appearance, behavior, moods, and then, the psychophysical testing."

         Officer Brewer approached Sanchez-Casco while he was seated in the back of Sergeant Martin's police cruiser. She testified about their interaction:

When I opened the rear door, I could smell the odor of alcohol right away. . . . As I was speaking to him, he would say things that I just couldn't understand, and then he would say, "Does that make sense?" And I was like, "Not really."
. . . .
I couldn't understand because his speech was slurred and he was, just, running words together. I couldn't understand what he was saying. He was very, very talkative, he spoke quickly, and his movements were exaggerated. He was irritable. His speech was the thick tongue and slurred. And ...

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