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State v. Hurtado

Court of Appeals of Oregon

July 26, 2017

STATE OF OREGON, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JOSE ESCUTIA HURTADO, aka Jose Ventura Hurtado Escutia, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted May 18, 2017

         Malheur County Circuit Court 15CR1523; Lung S. Hung, Judge.

          Ernest G. Lannet, Chief Defender, Criminal Appellate Section, and Brett J. Allin, Deputy Public Defender, Offce of Public Defense Services, fled the brief for appellant.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General, and Greg Rios, Assistant Attorney General, fled the brief for respondent.

          Before Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Judge, and Lagesen, Judge.

         Case Summary: This case concerns whether certain statements that defendant made to police officers investigating the scene of a motor vehicle crash were either admissions or a confession. The distinction matters, in defendant's view, because he asserts that the evidence to support his convictions for reckless driving, ORS 811.140, and driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), ORS 813.010, is limited to his own statements which directly and indirectly indicated that he had been driving. Those statements, he argues, constituted a confession and, under ORS 136.425(2), a confession without other proof that a crime has been committed cannot support a conviction. Thus, defendant assigns error to the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal in which he argued that an element of the charged crimes-that he was driving-could not be proved solely based on his uncorroborated confession.

         Held: Under State v. Manzella, 306 Or. 303, 316, 759 P.2d 1078 (1988), and State v. Probe, 200 Or.App. 708, 711, 117 P.3d 310 (2005), defendant's statements were admissions, not a confession, because they were not made for the purpose of acknowledging that he was guilty of a criminal offense.

         [287 Or. 2] Affirmed.

          ORTEGA, P. J.

         This case concerns whether certain statements that defendant made to police officers investigating the scene of a motor vehicle crash were either admissions or a confession. The distinction matters, in defendant's view, because he asserts that the evidence to support his convictions for reckless driving, ORS 811.140, and driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), ORS 813.010, is limited to his own statements, which directly and indirectly indicated that he had been driving. Those statements, he argues, constituted a confession and, under ORS 136.425(2), [1] a confession without other proof that a crime has been committed cannot support a conviction. Thus, defendant assigns as error the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal in which he argued that an element of the charged crimes- that he was driving-could not be proved solely based on his uncorroborated confession. For the following reasons, we conclude that defendant's statements were admissions and not a confession. We therefore affirm.

         The testimony at trial was as follows. At about 12:20 a.m., Deputy Hale was called to investigate a report that a car went off the side of Highway 201 South outside of Adrian, possibly involving intoxicated drivers. When Hale arrived, he saw that there were three vehicles at the scene- an SUV, a pickup truck, and a white car-and that five to eight men were milling about the scene. The deputy pointed to the white car and asked the group who its driver was, and defendant responded that he was the driver. In response to the deputy's inquiries, two of the other men acknowledged being the drivers of the other two vehicles.

         Trooper Waddell arrived at the scene at 1:10 a.m. She approached defendant, who indicated that he was the driver, but not the owner, of the white car. Waddell also saw that a broken telephone box, lying in between two tire furrow marks, had been knocked down from a wooden post located at the top of the embankment. Waddell asked how defendant had arrived at the side of the road, and defendant replied [287 Or. 3] that he had been travelling southbound and pulled off so that he could relieve himself. She then asked him where he left the roadway and pointed to a location where tire marks went up the embankment to the damaged telephone box. The trooper also asked defendant if he had seen the telephone box before striking it, and defendant answered that he had not seen it but that he would pay for the damage.

         Waddell also asked defendant where he was coming from and whether he had been drinking that evening. Defendant told her that he was coming from a soccer game in Ontario at which he had had about three or four beers, that he had not had any beers at the scene, and that he believed that his drinking had not affected his ability to drive. Waddell then conducted an investigation into whether defendant had been driving under the influence of intoxicants. After defendant failed field sobriety tests, Waddell placed him under arrest and took him to a nearby police station to determine his blood alcohol content with an Intoxilyzer. The test indicated that defendant's blood alcohol content was 0.13 percent.

         Defendant testified at trial and, although he did not contradict the officers' testimony, he asserted that he had not been the one driving. According to defendant, after the soccer game in Ontario, he went to a ranch where he drank with two men, Marcario and Rodriguez, and then went into the white car, buckled himself into the front passenger seat, and fell asleep. The next thing he knew, he woke up in the car at the scene of the car crash with Marcario and Rodriguez. Defendant's lawyer then asked him, "So when the officers were questioning you, you told them that you were the one that was driving the car?" Defendant replied, "Honestly, I don't know what I answered them. I was quite drunk and I don't remember everything I said to them." When asked why he ...


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