Court Case Record Otha Lee WOODS. v. STATE of Alabama. CR–14–0845 UID(d08f)

Otha Lee WOODS. v. STATE of Alabama. Court Case Record

Court Case Number: CR–14–0845

Case NumberCR–14–0845
Case TitleOtha Lee WOODS. v. STATE of Alabama.
Case TypeCriminal
StateAlabama, AL
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.
Court Address
Field Date6/3/2016
Close Date


Otha Lee WOODS.Appellee/Petitioner
STATE of Alabama.Appellant/Defendant
The appellant, Otha Lee Woods, pleaded guilty in Montgomery District Court to driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”), a violation of § 32–5A–191(a)(1), Ala.Code 1975. Woods appealed to the Montgomery Circuit Court for a trial de novo, where he was again convicted of DUI. The circuit court sentenced Woods to 12 months' imprisonment in the county jail, suspended that sentence and placed Woods on 2 years' supervised probation. The circuit court ordered Woods to pay a $600 fine, $250 to the crime victims' compensation fund, and court costs.
Because Woods does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, only a brief recitation of the facts is necessary in this case. On June 25, 2013, at approximately 5:00 p.m., Alabama state trooper Thomas Hutton observed Woods driving on Interstate 65. Hutton testified that Woods was speeding and that he made several lane changes without signaling. Hutton initiated a traffic stop of Woods's vehicle. When Hutton approached the vehicle and spoke to Woods, Hutton smelled a strong odor of alcohol. Hutton asked Woods to perform several field-sobriety tests, and Woods complied. After Woods was unable to successfully complete the tests, Hutton placed Woods under arrest for DUI. A subsequent breathalyzer test conducted approximately three hours after his initial arrest registered Woods's blood-alcohol level at .08. Woods pleaded guilty to DUI in the Montgomery District Court on December 12, 2013.
Woods's appeal to the circuit court was tried before a jury on January 26, 2015. After both sides rested and the circuit court instructed the jury on the applicable principles of law, the jury found Woods guilty of DUI. This appeal followed.
Woods's sole contention on appeal is that the circuit court erred when it admitted into evidence at trial a redacted copy of the sentencing order in Woods's guilty-plea conviction in the Montgomery District Court in which the district court accepted Woods's plea of guilt to DUI and found him guilty of DUI. Specifically, Woods contends that it was error to “introduce the district court's judgment of guilt in the trial de novo in circuit court.” (Woods's brief, p. 2.) Initially, we must address the State's contention that this issue is not preserved for review on appeal.
The record indicates that before trial Woods moved to exclude evidence of his guilty plea in the district court and argued as follows:
“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I understand that it is the State of Alabama's intention to offer evidence of Mr. Wood[s]'s plea of guilty in the district court. We would like to make a motion in limine on that. This is a trial de novo. Our position would be that nothing [that] happened downstairs is relevant or admissible up here. Further, under Rule 403, [Ala. R. Evid.,] if it were relevant, somehow it would be substantially outweighed by the prejudicial effect. And I'd like to make that motion.
“THE COURT: All right. What says the State?
“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: If it comes up in the trial, I'll make the same objection.
“[PROSECUTOR]: Judge, it is my understanding, that is an admission of guilty when he plead[s] guilty in court. Regardless of what—I understand what he's saying, it's a trial de novo. That doesn't wipe out what the conviction is there for. It just gives him an opportunity to have a trial by jury, if requested, and the evidence starts over.
“THE COURT: Well, I think the law has—case—law has developed · whereby our appellate courts have said that when somebody pleads guilty in the lower court, it appeals that, that the fact that they pled guilty can be introduced in the trial. Is that your understanding of it?
“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Well, I need to make my record.
“THE COURT: I know, but is that your understanding?
“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I think that's correct. Well, maybe I should strike that, because if I say that and the law changes next week, they'll say I invited error, but·
“THE COURT: Well, but I'm just saying, it all depends if the law changes next week, if it's retroactive.
“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Anything can happen.
“THE COURT: I'm just saying. I mean, you know, let's just say that. That's the state of the law today.
“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: I understand the Court's position. And I take [it] that means my motion is denied. The Court having denied the motion in limine, will it be necessary for me to object to the same thing in the course of the trial?
“THE COURT: Well, I can't tell you how to practice law.”
(Supp. R. 26–28.)
At the close of the State's case, the State attempted to introduce a copy of the district court's sentencing order, which, according to the State, was a certified copy of Woods's guilty plea in district court. The following exchange then occurred:
“[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Your Honor, first of all, same objection. Same objection we made in our motion in limine. Additionally, Your Honor, this is just a sentencing order, certified copy of his sentencing order. This is not a—
“THE COURT: It says he pled guilty.