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State of Montana v. Ruben Chavez-Villa

November 7, 2012

STATE OF MONTANA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE,
v.
RUBEN CHAVEZ-VILLA, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DC 10-0676 Honorable Susan P. Watters, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: James C. Nelson

November 7 2012

Submitted on Briefs: August 15, 2012

Filed:

Clerk

Justice Brian Morris delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Ruben Chavez-Villa (Chavez-Villa) appeals his conviction from the Thirteenth Judicial District, Yellowstone County, for driving under the influence in violation of § 61-8-401, MCA. We affirm.

¶2 Chavez-Villa's appeal presents the following issues:

¶3 Whether the District Court properly allowed the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus and preliminary breath test to be admitted at trial without expert testimony to establish the reliability of the tests.

¶4 Whether the District Court properly excluded cross-examination about Chavez-Villa's blood alcohol content before Trooper Munson administered the Intoxilyzer 8000 test.

Factual and Procedural Background

¶5 The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office and the Montana Highway Patrol responded to a call of a suspected drunk driver on the morning of December 26, 2010. Timothy Ferch (Ferch) had been driving on Interstate 94 when he noticed the vehicle in front of him weaving back and forth in the roadway. Trooper Munson later identified Chavez-Villa as the driver of this vehicle. Ferch saw Chavez-Villa's vehicle veer into the other lane, forcing a vehicle in that lane onto the shoulder to avoid being hit. Ferch followed Chavez-Villa as he exited the freeway. Ferch watched Chavez-Villa roll through a red light. Chavez-Villa did not stop until his vehicle was a car length into the intersection. Chavez-Villa then pulled into a gas station parking lot. Ferch called 911 to report Chavez-Villa's erratic driving.

¶6 Deputy Hackbarth of the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department and Trooper Munson of the Montana Highway Patrol responded to Ferch's call. Deputy Hackbarth and Trooper Munson located Chavez-Villa inside a casino near the gas station. Trooper Munson smelled the odor of alcohol on Chavez-Villa's breath and noticed that Chavez-Villa's eyes were glassy and watery. Chavez-Villa seemed unstable on his feet and used a wall for support. Deputy Hackbarth noted Chavez-Villa's slurred speech, his glassy eyes, and the odor of alcohol on his breath.

ΒΆ7 Trooper Munson had Chavez-Villa perform one field sobriety test, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The weather at the scene was cold, windy, and icy, so Trooper Munson did not conduct any additional field sobriety tests. Trooper ...


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