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State v. Moeller

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JEFFREY MICHAEL MOELLER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Brook K. Jacobsen, District Associate Judge.

         Jeffrey Moeller appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated.

          Chad R. Frese of Kaplan & Frese, LLP, Marshalltown, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Jeffrey Moeller appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated (OWI), third offense. Moeller claims the court abused its discretion by allowing a State witness to improperly offer an opinion on Moeller's intoxication and insufficient evidence supported the jury's verdict. We find the court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the witness to testify and substantial evidence supports the jury's verdict.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Around 11:00 p.m. on May 13, 2017, law enforcement and emergency personnel responded to a single car collision call. It was a clear night, and the road, with a speed limit of fifty-five miles per hour, was in good condition with no road construction or visibility conditions to cause difficulty driving. Moeller was found belted into the driver seat of an overturned car; it appeared Moeller failed to negotiate a gradual curve in the road and flipped his vehicle. The curve does not have full-size warning signs but has reflector poles and a visible fog line along the edge. Moeller was initially unconscious after the crash but awoke while personnel worked to get him out of the car. After being extracted from his vehicle, Moeller was flown to a hospital by helicopter.

         During treatment for the injuries at the scene and in the hospital, Moeller answered "no" to the investigating deputy's questions if he had anything to drink; "I don't know" to questions of what and where he had been drinking; and then refused to provide a blood or urine sample for testing. On May 23, law enforcement asked Moeller to turn himself in to be charged with OWI. On May 31, Moeller turned himself in and was processed into jail.

         On July 5, the State filed a trial information charging Moeller with OWI, third offense. In September, a jury trial was held. During the trial, the first-responding officer testified he could not smell alcohol from an arm's length away but Moeller exhibited confusion. Next, a deputy sheriff testified on the road conditions and the accident site. A firefighter, who helped extract Moeller from his vehicle and held Moeller's head during emergency treatment, testified on his actions and conversation. The investigating deputy also testified and portions of his body camera video were entered into evidence. Both the firefighter and investigating deputy testified Moeller exhibited signs of intoxication and smelled of alcohol. On September 14, the jury found Moeller guilty. On October 27, Moeller was sentenced to 321J program residential placement for an indeterminate term of five years. Moeller appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         "We . . . review district court rulings on evidentiary issues for an abuse of discretion." Powers v. State, 911 N.W.2d 774, 780 (Iowa 2018). We review sufficiency of evidence claims for correction of errors at law. State v. Thomas, 847 N.W.2d 438, 442 (Iowa 2014) (citation omitted). We will uphold a verdict supported by substantial evidence in the record. State v. Showens, 845 N.W.2d 436, 440 (Iowa 2014). "Evidence is substantial when 'a rational trier of fact could conceivably find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'" State v. Howse, 875 N.W.2d 684, 688 (Iowa 2016) (quoting State v. Thomas, 561 N.W.2d 37, 39 (Iowa 1997)). We will consider all evidence in the record, including all reasonable inferences fairly drawn from the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Reed, 875 N.W.2d 69, 704 (Iowa 2016). We consider both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence. Id.

         III. ...


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