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State v. Willyard

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

June 17, 2019

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
TERRELL WILLYARD, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal From the District Court of Lea County William G. W. Shoobridge, District Judge.

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM John J. Woykovsky, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellant.

          Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Santa Fe, NM MJ Edge, Assistant Appellate Defender Albuquerque, NM for Appellee.

          OPINION

          Kristina Bogardus, Judge.

         {1} The State appeals from the district court's order that (1) set aside the jury verdict finding Defendant guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor (DWI); (2) granted its own motion for a new trial; and (3) dismissed the case after concluding that retrial was not supported by the evidence. We reverse and remand.

         BACKGROUND

         {2} Defendant Terrell Willyard was charged with DWI, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-102(A) (2016), following a single-vehicle collision in which Defendant's vehicle collided with a telephone pole. A witness heard Defendant's truck approaching, saw the collision, and then saw Defendant drive his truck from the scene and park it in the shadows behind a business. The witness called 911 and described the collision and Defendant. The witness lost sight of Defendant when Defendant walked away from the scene.

         {3} A responding officer spotted Defendant a few blocks away. That officer and two assisting officers believed that Defendant displayed signs of intoxication. When he refused to submit to field sobriety tests and chemical testing, Defendant was placed under arrest and brought back to the scene for identification. Based on the witness's testimony, no more than twenty-one minutes passed from the time he lost sight of Defendant until the officers brought Defendant back to the scene.

         {4} Defendant moved for a directed verdict at trial, both at the close of the State's evidence and after the defense rested, arguing the State presented no evidence that Defendant was intoxicated at the time he was driving. The district court denied both motions, and the jury found Defendant guilty of DWI.

         {5} Following trial, and for the reasons cited in our discussion that follows, the district court, sua sponte, ruled that there was no evidence that Defendant's driving and impairment overlapped and granted Defendant a new trial. The district court then dismissed the case, concluding that Defendant could not be retried because there was insufficient evidence to sustain the jury's verdict. The State appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         I. The State Has a Right to Appeal the District Court's Ruling

         {6} We first address the question of whether the State has the right to appeal in this case. "The right to appeal is . . . a matter of substantive law created by constitutional or statutory provision." State v. Armijo, 2016-NMSC-021, ¶ 19, 375 P.3d 415. "We review issues of statutory and constitutional interpretation de novo." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         A. The State Is an Aggrieved Party Under the New Mexico Constitution

         {7} The State argues that it has a "strong interest in enforcing a lawful jury verdict" and, therefore, as an aggrieved party, has a constitutional right to an appeal. State v. Chavez, 1982-NMSC-108, ¶ 6, 98 N.M. 682, 652 P.2d 232 (holding "that when the jury reaches a verdict after a trial which is fair and free from error, and such a verdict is set aside, the [s]tate is aggrieved within the meaning of the New Mexico Constitution"); see State v. Heinsen, 2005-NMSC-035, ¶ 9, 138 N.M. 441, 121 P.3d 1040 ("Article VI, Section 2 of the New Mexico Constitution provides 'that an aggrieved party shall have an absolute right to one appeal.' This provision gives the [s]tate an absolute, constitutional right to appeal a ruling that is contrary to law."). Although Defendant notes that under Chavez, the State's right to appeal from a verdict that has been set aside exists only when the verdict is reached after a trial that is "fair and free from error," 1982-NMSC-108, ¶ 6, he fails to identify any trial errors that affected the jury's verdict or rendered the trial unfair. We are not obligated to review Defendant's undeveloped argument, State v. Guerra, 2012-NMSC-014, ¶ 21, 278 P.3d 1031, nor are we obligated to "search the record for facts, arguments, and rulings" to ...


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