State v. Leonard (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-07-0739, 17 pp.) (John C. Martin, Ch.J.) Appealed from Wake County Superior Court. (Donald W. Stephens, J.) N.C. App. Click here for the full-text opinion.
Holding: Although defendant argues that it was his attempt to elude arrest, rather than his drunk driving, that led to the victim’s serious injury, there can be more than one proximate cause of an injury. There was sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find that defendant’s drunk driving was a proximate cause of the victim’s injury: defendant was consuming alcohol on the evening of Jan. 16, 2009; he got into an altercation with his girlfriend and her family, got into his vehicle, drove it into his girlfriend’s car, refused to pull over for the police, drove the car faster than the speed limit, proceeded through a red traffic light, and collided with the victim’s vehicle; officers who responded to the incident said defendant had a strong odor of alcohol and appeared impaired; and defendant stipulated to a blood alcohol concentration of .10.
We find no error in defendant’s convictions of felonious serious injury by motor vehicle, felonious operation of a motor vehicle to elude arrest, and misdemeanor hit and run.
Even if we assume that the trial court’s admission of a DMV employee’s affidavit violated defendant’s right of confrontation, no miscarriage of justice occurred. The affidavit was introduced to show one aggravating factor that can raise the offense of operation of a motor vehicle to elude arrest to the felony level, i.e., that defendant was driving while his license was revoked. Exclusion of the affidavit would not have altered the jury’s verdict because there was ample evidence of two other aggravating factors: that defendant was driving recklessly and that defendant’s negligent driving led to an accident causing personal injury.
Ample evidence was presented to support a jury’s finding that defendant’s negligent driving led to an accident causing personal injury; in fact, the jury found defendant guilty of felonious serious injury of Mario Smith by motor vehicle.
Additionally, at trial, testimony was offered supporting a finding that defendant drove recklessly. As he was fleeing from Officer Smith in a 35-mile-per-hour speed zone, he approached a red traffic light, further accelerated to a speed of approximately 55 miles per hour, and drove illegally through the intersection.
This evidence is sufficient to support a finding that at least two aggravating factors were present. Therefore, any error which may or may not have resulted from the state’s introduction of the DMV employee’s affidavit clearly did not result in prejudice to defendant.