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State v. Gonzales

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

December 23, 2019

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOHN R. GONZALES, Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF CIBOLA COUNTY Pedro G. Rael, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM M. Victoria Wilson, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

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

          OPINION

          JACQUELINE R. MEDINA, JUDGE

         {¶1} Defendant John Gonzales appeals his convictions for resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 3 0-22-1(D) (1981); aggravated driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs (DWI), contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-102(D)(1) (2010, amended 2016); careless driving, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-113 (1987); and possession of an open container, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-138 (2013). Defendant raises two issues on appeal: (1) the denial of his motion for a mistrial after the State questioned him about plea negotiations in front of the jury and (2) he was the subject of a pretextual stop. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

         BACKGROUND

         {¶2} The testimony at trial revealed the following facts. A husband and wife were driving home one afternoon when they saw an unfamiliar car driven by Defendant pull in and out of their driveway. As Defendant pulled out, he almost struck the couple's vehicle and fence before driving away. The couple followed Defendant and saw him pull in and out of another driveway. As Defendant drove away, the couple had to swerve in order to avoid being struck by him, causing a nearby truck to drive onto a railroad tie. A few minutes later, Defendant returned and pulled back into the same driveway from which he had just pulled out, at which point Officer Caleb Martin arrived in response to a report of a reckless driver.

         {¶3} When Officer Martin made contact with Defendant, who was still sitting in the vehicle, he immediately smelled a strong odor of alcohol emanating from Defendant and noticed Defendant had bloodshot, watery eyes. Once Defendant opened the door, he almost fell out of the vehicle. Officer Martin eventually placed Defendant under arrest for DWI. Additionally, when Officer Martin reached in to turn off the ignition and secure Defendant's vehicle, he noticed a nearly empty pint of whiskey on the passenger seat. Officer Martin drove Defendant to the police station, and as he was escorting Defendant inside, Defendant pulled away, resulting in Officer Martin pinning him against the wall. Inside the station, Officer Martin asked Defendant if he would submit to a breath or blood test and interpreted Defendant's lack of response as a refusal.

         {¶4} Defendant testified in his defense. On direct examination, Defendant testified that he stopped at a store on his way home and purchased a bottle of whiskey. Once home, Defendant entered his house, retrieved a soda with a cup of ice and returned to his vehicle, where he sat and listened to music until Officer Martin arrived. Defendant denied that he almost fell down or that he resisted arrest, and further testified that he offered to provide a breath, blood, or urine sample.

         {¶5} During the State's cross examination of Defendant, the following colloquy took place:

Q. Mr. Gonzales, you realize certain things can happen in this case, right, if you get convicted, you are looking at jail time, right?[1]
A. Yes, if I did something wrong but I never did anything wrong. You have to break the law before you can get[-]
Q. Yeah.

         A. I haven't broke any laws. I can't see where he got me on reckless driving when I never drove my car in the manner of under the influence If I would have done wrong, I would have accepted the guilty plea like in the past. But how can you plea to something you didn't do[?] I don't think you would do that. I'm sorry but if you do nothing wrong, how can you plea to that? How can you accept that? You have to do something wrong before you-

         The district court interjected, "There is no question pending, Mr. Gonzales. Wait until there is a question, okay." The cross examination continued:

Q. Mr. Gonzales, you just made a statement that you would never plea to something like this?
A. Would you please repeat the question?
Q. You would never plea to something that you didn't ...

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