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State v. Soto

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Second Division, Department A

October 24, 2013

THE STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee,
v.
STEVEN ANTHONY SOTO, Appellant.

Not for Publication Rule 111, Rules of the Supreme Court

APPEAL FROM THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PIMA COUNTY Cause No. CR20111498001 Honorable Deborah Bernini, Judge

Thomas C. Horne, Arizona Attorney General By Joseph T. Maziarz and Amy Pignatella Cain Tucson Attorneys for Appellee.

Isabel G. Garcia, Pima County Legal Defender By Robb P. Holmes Tucson Attorneys for Appellant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

GARYE L. VÁSQUEZ, Presiding Judge.

¶1 After a jury trial, Steven Soto was convicted of four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI). The trial court sentenced him to concurrent, four-month prison terms followed by three years' probation. On appeal, Soto argues the court erred by ordering additional closing arguments in response to a jury question during deliberations. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

Factual Background and Procedural History

¶2 We view the facts in the light most favorable to sustaining Soto's convictions. See State v. Miles, 211 Ariz. 475, ¶ 2, 123 P.3d 669, 670 (App. 2005). On an early morning in December 2010, a Pima County Sheriff's deputy stopped the truck Soto was driving after observing it traveling at almost twice the posted speed limit in a construction zone. The deputy smelled a "strong odor of intoxicants coming from [Soto's] breath" and "observed he had red, watery, bloodshot eyes." Soto admitted he had been drinking. The deputy administered the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, and Soto displayed six out of six possible cues of impairment. Soto showed additional signs of impairment while performing two other field-sobriety tests. The deputy testified he had asked Soto if he remembered how to perform the tests from an earlier DUI investigation and Soto had responded "that he remembered doing those tests in the prior investigation that [the deputy] had with him and that he remembered how to do them." Soto consented to a blood draw, which revealed an alcohol concentration of .182. Although Soto could not provide a driver's license, the deputy checked the electronic Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) records and determined that he "ha[d] a valid license." However, a subsequent records check revealed that Soto's license was suspended at the time of the stop.

¶3 Soto was charged with aggravated DUI while his license was suspended, revoked, or in violation of a restriction; aggravated DUI having two or more prior DUI convictions; aggravated DUI with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more, having two or more prior DUI convictions; and aggravated DUI with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more while his license was suspended, revoked, or in violation of a restriction. At trial, a custodian of records for the MVD testified that Soto had "multiple suspensions" based on prior DUI convictions stemming from incidents in 2008 and 2009. When asked to explain the discrepancy between her findings and the deputy's conclusion that Soto "ha[d] a valid license, " she stated that the MVD relies on information from the courts and administrative agencies and that the paperwork regarding Soto's latest suspension had not been transmitted to the MVD as of the date of his arrest.

¶4 While deliberating, the jury submitted a question about an MVD record, admitted as a trial exhibit, relating to Soto's license. The question was as follows: "[The exhibit] shows issuance of [a] class I license dates: 6/21/10-12/18/10[.] (1) Was this license actually issued subject to conditions being met? (2) Were there any restrictions if issued?" Outside the presence of the jury, the trial court informed the parties:

The Court doesn't want to interpret the document, although it's pretty obvious what it is. And I'd like to give counsel a chance to make arguments [to the jury], but based on that, not adding any information or opening up the evidence but argue in a way that answers their questions about is this a license actually issued.

Soto objected, arguing that "the document . . . should stand on its own and the jury should be free to interpret [it]." He added that any argument "is just argument and not evidence" and would not be "helpful in this instance." The court overruled the objection. During its argument, the state maintained that the "class I license" referred to in the MVD record was an identification card and not a driver's license.

¶5 The jury found Soto guilty as charged, and the trial court sentenced him as described above. This appeal followed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. ยงยง ...


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