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State v. George

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 18, 2014

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
JASON DAREL GEORGE, Defendant-Appellant

Submitted February 19, 2014.

Klamath County Circuit Court. 1200168CR. Dan Bunch, Judge.

Peter Gartlan, Chief Defender, and Lindsey Burrows, Deputy Public Defender, Office of Public Defense Services, filed the brief for appellant.

Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Anna M. Joyce, Solicitor General, and Carson L. Whitehead, Assistant Attorney General, filed the brief for respondent.

Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and DeVore, Judge, and Edmonds, Senior Judge.


Page 1240

[263 Or.App. 643] DeVORE, J.

Defendant appeals a judgment of conviction for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, ORS 811.540(1).[1] Defendant assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion for a judgment of acquittal. He denies violating ORS 811.540(1)(b)(A), contending that he did not attempt to " flee" from or " elude" an officer. We review challenges to the sufficiency of evidence to determine whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, a rational factfinder could find the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Cunningham, 320 Or. 47, 63, 880 P.2d 431 (1994), cert den, 514 U.S. 1005, 115 S.Ct. 1317, 131 L.Ed.2d 198 (1995). We review questions of statutory construction for legal error. State v. Walker, 192 Or.App. 535, 538, 86 P.3d 690, rev den, 337 Or. 327, 99 P.3d 291 (2004). We affirm.

The relevant facts are undisputed. Two Klamath Falls police officers, Snyder and Gordon, suspected that defendant was speeding, and they followed him. Defendant turned left without signaling and made his way to the next intersection where he failed to stop at a stop sign. He swerved left to pass another vehicle. Snyder activated his overhead lights to signal defendant to stop, but defendant continued driving. He made two right turns, rolled through a stop sign, and finally pulled into a residential driveway to park in a lot behind his house. In total, he drove approximately two and a half blocks after being signaled to stop. Defendant got out of his pickup truck and stood outside. He refused to comply with Snyder's request that he get back [263 Or.App. 644] in. He appeared agitated with bloodshot, watery eyes, and his speech was " a little bit" slurred. Defendant admitted to Snyder that his license was suspended. He explained that he had driven to his house, rather than stopping, because he did not want his truck to be impounded. Defendant was transported to the Klamath County Jail for a breath test, and the test revealed that defendant's blood-alcohol content (BAC) was .09 percent. Defendant was charged with DUII, driving while suspended, and attempting to elude a police officer.[2]

At defendant's bench trial, defendant argued that the state did not present sufficient evidence that he had attempted to elude a police officer. He asserted that attempting to elude a police officer " requires more than simply driving away from the police. It requires some evasive maneuver on the part of the defendant." Defendant framed the issue before the trial court as whether " traveling 250 yards to get his vehicle into his own parking spot at his house" was an attempt to elude a police officer. The trial court denied

Page 1241

defendant's motion, reasoning that defendant consciously decided not to stop, despite knowing that the officer was behind him signaling to stop. The trial court acknowledged that defendant did not intend to " escape" from the police. Defendant was convicted on all charged counts.

On appeal, defendant reiterates that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer because the state failed to prove that he drove evasively. Defendant contends that ORS 811.540 requires evidence of " evasive driving" and asserts that legislative history supports his understanding of the statute. Defendant suggests that the evidence was insufficient to convict him, because he did not engage in the type of conduct that the legislature intended to criminalize in the statute. The state responds that ORS 811.540 does not require evasive driving and that there was sufficient evidence supporting defendant's conviction.

[263 Or.App. 645] When we construe a statute, we consider its text and context, in addition to relevant legislative history, to discern legislative intent. State v. Gaines, 346 Or. 160, 171-72, 206 P.3d 1042 (2009). Where a statutory term is undefined within the statute, we look to its plain, natural, and ordinary meaning. PGE v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 317 Or. 606, 611, 859 P.2d 1143 (1993) (" [W]ords of common usage typically should be given their plain, natural, and ordinary meaning." ). This court has previously construed the meaning of " flee" and " elude" in the context of ORS 811.540(1)(b)(B), a related misdemeanor crime involving fleeing or attempting to elude a ...

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