FROM HARDIN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE KEN M. HOWARD, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 15-CR-00625
FOR APPELLANT: Roy A. Durham Frankfort, Kentucky.
FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General Bryan D. Morrow
Assistant Attorney General Frankfort, Kentucky.
BEFORE: JOHNSON,  JONES, AND KRAMER, JUDGES.
a jury trial in Hardin Circuit Court, the Appellant, Tyrice
Adams, was found guilty of the following offenses: (1)
first-degree fleeing or evading police; (2) operating a motor
vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other
substance that impairs driving ability; and (3) first-degree
wanton endangerment. The Hardin Circuit Court entered a
judgment of conviction consistent with the jury's verdict
and sentenced Adams to serve a maximum sentence of six years.
Adams now appeals to this Court as a matter of right. He
raises four issues on appeal that he maintains warrant
reversal and remand: 1) the trial court's refusal to
grant a continuance; 2) suppression of his medical records;
3) Officer Smith's testimony concerning the mechanics of
the Chevy Impala Adams was driving at the time of the
incident in question; and 4) a violation of double jeopardy.
The third issue is dispositive, and the first two issues are
unlikely to resurface in the event the Commonwealth retries
Adams. Therefore, we limit are our review to issues three and
four. Having reviewed the record in conjunction with all
applicable legal authority, we vacate the judgement against
Adams and remand this matter to the Hardin Circuit Court.
September 13, 2015, Adams was traveling from Louisville,
Kentucky, to Radcliffe, Kentucky; he was driving a 2004 Chevy
Impala. Once Adams arrived in Radcliffe, he observed and
approached a safety checkpoint, which had been organized by
Radcliffe Police Department Sgt. Brandon Jones. Adams stopped
his vehicle at the checkpoint. Officer Vernie Curl, the Chief
of West Point Police Department, made his way to Adams's
stopped Chevy Impala. Chief Curl requested Adams's
license and registration. At that point, Adams's tires
squealed, and his vehicle left the checkpoint. Officers at
the scene gave chase. They pursued Adams for about a mile.
The pursuit ended when Adams's vehicle crashed into a
the crash, Adams exited his vehicle and fell to the ground.
Adams attempted to get up. But, before he could, he was taken
down by police. Adams became unresponsive, and EMS was
called. Adams was transported by ambulance to Hardin Memorial
Hospital for treatment. Subsequently, Adams was placed under
arrest, charged and indicted with: (1) first-degree fleeing
or evading police; (2) operating a motor vehicle while under
the influence of alcohol or other substance that impairs
driving ability; and (3) first-degree wanton endangerment.
trial commenced on April 20, 2016. At trial, various police
officers, who were present and assisted at the checkpoint,
testified regarding the events of September 13, 2015. Chief
Curl testified that when Adams pulled up to the checkpoint,
Chief Curl approached Adams's driver side window, at
which point Adams hit the gas and drove off. Chief Curl
indicated he returned to his cruiser to give chase, along
with several other police officers.
Jones, who was also present at the scene, testified that he
heard squealing tires approximately twenty to thirty feet
behind him and someone yelling "Hey." Sgt. Jones
explained that he then turned his cruiser around and joined
the pursuit. Sgt. Jones testified that the pursuit "hit
triple digits" and lasted for approximately one mile, at
which point Adams's vehicle crashed into a tree. Sgt.
Jones then witnessed Adams climb out of the driver side
window of his vehicle and fall to the ground. Sgt. Jones
stated that Adams then ran to the front of his vehicle and
into a parking lot. Sgt. Jones stated he pulled into the
parking lot behind Adams, at which point Adams again fell to
the ground. When Adams attempted to get up again, Sgt. Jones
took him to the ground. Sgt. Jones then placed Adams in
handcuffs and asked Officer Clennon Smith to take over the
scene so that he could return to the checkpoint. Sgt. Jones
recalled that Adams was only wearing one shoe.
Smith testified that he was also present at the checkpoint
when he heard tires spinning and someone yell out
"Hey." Officer Smith joined the pursuit for Adams.
Officer Smith stated that he arrived soon after Adams had
crashed his vehicle. He witnessed Sgt. Jones get out of his
vehicle, put his arms around Adams, and take Adams to the
ground. According to Officer Smith, Adams was unresponsive,
and EMS was called. EMS transported Adams to the hospital,
accompanied by Officer Smith.
Smith remained with Adams at the hospital. Officer Smith
testified that Adams began making various statements. Officer
Smith testified that Adams admitted to a nurse that he had
taken some of his girlfriend's pain medications. Officer
Smith described Adams as having slurred speech and bloodshot
eyes. He noted that Adams declined to submit to a blood test.
took the stand on his own behalf. According to Adams, he was
driving to Radcliffe from Louisville when he approached the
safety checkpoint. Adams stated that he stopped his vehicle,
and an officer approached. The officer requested Adams's
license and registration. Adams claimed that, while still
wearing his seatbelt, he leaned back in his seat to reach
into his front pocket to get his license. When he leaned
back, however, Adams claimed that his foot slipped off the
brake and landed under the gas pedal, causing the vehicle to
take off. Adams testified that he grabbed the steering wheel
in an attempt to control the vehicle. He tried to pull his
foot out from under the gas pedal, but that gave the vehicle
more gas. Adams explained to the jury that because he did not
want to hurt anyone, he turned on to a less busy street,
hoping that he would be able to stop the vehicle. However, he
was not able to do so. Adams testified that when it became
clear that he was not going to be able to stop the vehicle,
he decided to intentionally crash the vehicle into a tree.
After the initial impact, Adams exited his vehicle and found
himself in the middle of the street. He then put his hands up
in the air and ran around to the other side of the car so he
could get out of the street. While doing so, Adams slipped
and fell, at which point he blacked out. He felt two officers
pick him up and "slam" him face first into the hood
of a car.
to this appeal, on redirect the Commonwealth questioned
Officer Smith fairly extensively about the mechanical
intricacies involved in vehicle acceleration and,
specifically, about the acceleration system employed by the
Chevy Impala that Adams was driving. The Commonwealth first
asked Officer Smith if he was familiar with cars. Officer
Smith responded in the affirmative. The Commonwealth then
queried whether Officer Smith was "mechanically
inclined." Again, Officer Smith responded in the
affirmative stating that he had worked on cars for the past
fifteen years. The Commonwealth then asked Officer Smith if
he was familiar with the type of car Adams was driving on the
night in question, a 2004 Chevy Impala. Officer Smith stated
that he was familiar with the mechanics of a 2004 Chevy
Impala because he owned a 2005 Chevy Impala, which was the
same body style as the 2004 model. Officer Smith then began
explaining to the jury about the mechanics of vehicle
acceleration, including the two primary means by which
vehicles can be designed to accelerate: electronically or
mechanically. At this point, Adams's counsel objected
that Officer Smith was not an expert witness and was not
qualified to give testimony on automobile mechanics. The
trial court summarily overruled the objection because Officer
Smith testified that he owned a Chevy Impala and had
"worked on it" before. The trial court indicated
that Adams was free to cross-examine Officer Smith on his
qualifications. Thereafter, Officer Smith continued his
testimony. He went on to explain the type of acceleration
system utilized in Chevy Impalas, and why it was not
possible, given the nature of that system, to accelerate a
Chevy Impala by pushing up on the gas pedal from underneath.
He also testified that one of the basic safety features of
all vehicles is that the gas and the brake pedal are not the
same height; the brake pedal sits higher than the gas pedal.
On cross-examination, Officer Smith admitted that he had
never attended any special school for a mechanic, had never
worked as a mechanic, and did not have a mechanics license or
the jury found Adams guilty of first-degree fleeing or
evading police; operating a motor vehicle while under the
influence of alcohol or other substance that impairs driving
ability; and first-degree wanton endangerment. Adams ...