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Smelling alcohol from the vehicle provides reasonable suspicion that driver is under the influence

Facts

In 2008, Fredrick Watts, driving his red Ford Mustang, was stopped at a roadblock manned by officers of the Marion Police Department and the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. One of the officers asked Watts for his driver’s license and commented that he smelled the aroma of alcohol coming from the vehicle. According to the officer, Watts then “took off at a fast pace.”

Two other officers gave chase in their vehicles, activating their sirens and flashing lights, but Watts refused to stop. A digital video recorder in one of the police vehicles captured the events. Watts led the officers from Marion to the City of Meridian, at speeds ranging from 100 to 135 miles per hour. Watts eventually lost control of his car in a residential area, and the car stopped when it struck a tree. Watts then fled on foot, and was not apprehended.

Nine days later, Watts and his attorney went to the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. Watts signed a confession that had been written by his attorney, admitting that he had fled the roadblock, “was going over 100 miles per hour knowing the officers were chasing me,” and that after hitting a tree, he had fled on foot.

Watts was convicted of felony fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle under Mississippi Code Section 97-9-72 (Rev. 2006), and was sentenced to five years. On appeal, he argued the officers did not testify as to what crime he had violated. MSC affirmed.

Analysis

The elements of the crime of felony fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle are set out in Mississippi Code Section 97-9-72:
(1) The driver of a motor vehicle who is given a visible or audible signal by a law enforcement officer by hand, voice, emergency light or siren directing the driver to bring his motor vehicle to a stop when such signal is given by a law enforcement officer acting in the lawful performance of duty who has a reasonable suspicion to believe that the driver in question has committed a crime, and who willfully fails to obey such direction shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(2) Any person who is guilty of violating subsection (1) of this section by operating a motor vehicle in such a manner as to indicate a reckless or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property, or who so operates a motor vehicle in a manner manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, shall be guilty of a felony.

Watts argues that the State failed to prove that the officers had reasonable suspicion to believe that he had committed a crime. He declares in his brief that “the State did not elicit testimony from any officer concerning what if any crime Watts allegedly committed.”

Watts fails to mention in his argument that the officer who initially approached Watts’s vehicle at the roadblock testified that he had detected the scent of an “intoxicating beverage” coming from the vehicle. Thus, he does not refute the State’s position that the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that Watts had been driving under the influence of an intoxicating beverage in violation of Mississippi Code Section 63-11-30.

Accordingly, we find this issue without merit.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/Opinions/CO75335.pdf