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State v. Wood

12/6/2005



Susan Danette Wood ("defendant") appeals from judgments entered after a jury found her to be guilty of: (1) felonious fleeing to elude arrest with a motor vehicle; (2) impaired driving; (3) driving with an expired registration; and (4) speeding. We find no error.


I. Background


The State's evidence tended to show that at approximately 6:45 a.m. on 12 July 2003, defendant was driving a 1986 Mercury vehicle on North Main Street in China Grove, North Carolina. China Grove Police Officer Nicholas J. Villa ("Officer Villa") noticed defendant's vehicle displayed an expired license tag and hefollowed her in his marked patrol vehicle with its blue lights activated. Defendant drove an additional one-half mile before pulling off the road at 1740 Highway 29 North. Defendant testified that was the nearest point where she could safely pull off the road.


Officer Villa approached defendant's vehicle and asked her to roll down her window so that he could check her driver's license and registration. Defendant rolled down her window about two inches and informed Officer Villa that her driver's license and registration were inside her purse, located in the trunk. Officer Villa instructed defendant to retrieve the items from the trunk. Defendant retrieved a Florida driver's license from her purse but failed to produce the registration card for her vehicle. After checking defendant's license plate number, Officer Villa learned that the vehicle had an "insurance stop" on file.


Officer Villa informed defendant that upon receiving a report of an "insurance stop," an officer must remove the license plate and have the vehicle towed and stored until proper insurance could be verified or obtained. Defendant told Officer Villa that the vehicle was insured and "she had just paid $20 for the tag and was not going to take her tag." Officer Villa returned to his patrol vehicle, called a tow truck, and began to write a citation charging defendant with failure to maintain liability insurance and failure to show registration. During this time, Rowan County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Sam Towne ("Lieutenant Towne") joined Officer Villa at the scene. When Officer Villa saw the tow truck approaching at 6:55 a.m., he picked up a screwdriver and walked toward defendant's vehicle. As Officer Villa bent down to remove the license plate, defendant drove off. Officer Villa and Lieutenant Towne chased defendant in their respective vehicles. During the five mile chase, defendant accelerated to fifty-seven miles per hour in a forty-five miles per hour speed zone. Eventually, defendant hit her brakes, turned off into a driveway area, and started to turn around as if to return onto the highway. Lieutenant Towne positioned his vehicle to block defendant's entrance back onto the highway. Defendant accelerated and "slammed into [Lieutenant Towne's] car" causing an estimated $1,830.55 in damage. Officer Villa "boxed in" defendant by positioning his vehicle behind her vehicle.


Other law enforcement officers arrived and removed defendant from her vehicle. As defendant was removed from her vehicle, Officer Villa testified he noticed a strong odor of alcohol emitting from defendant. A half-empty bottle of vodka was found in defendant's vehicle. Officer Villa asked defendant if she would submit to a field breathalyzer test. Defendant refused to answer. Based on defendant's demeanor and Officer Villa's past experience, he formed the opinion that defendant's mental and physical faculties were impaired by alcohol.


After being transported to the Salisbury Police Department, defendant was read her rights, observed for the mandatory waiting period, and at 8:50 a.m. took the Intoxilyzer tes

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