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State v. Teggatz

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 12, 2017

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
Shawn Mitchell Teggatz, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable John W. Grinsteiner, Judge. AFFIRMED.

          Tessa M. Vaagen, Assistant Burleigh County State's Attorney, Bismarck, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          James R. Loraas, Bismarck-Mandan Public Defender Office, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.


          Kapsner, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Shawn Teggatz appeals from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of reckless endangerment and fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer. Because we conclude the verdicts are supported by substantial evidence and the district court did not abuse its discretion when it did not permit Teggatz to testify about his mechanic's out-of-court statements, we affirm the criminal judgment.


         [¶ 2] On April 13, 2016, Teggatz was arrested after spike strips were deployed by police to stop Teggatz's vehicle following a high speed chase. The State charged Teggatz with reckless endangerment under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-17-03 and fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer under N.D.C.C. § 39-10-71. The district court held a preliminary hearing on May 23, 2016, at which Teggatz pleaded not guilty. The case was heard before a jury on October 5, 2016.

         [¶ 3] At trial, an officer testified he was parked facing south while running stationary radar when he observed Teggatz's vehicle traveling northbound at 82 miles per hour. The officer stated as the vehicle got closer to him, it slowed to 74 miles per hour. According to the officer, the highway speed limit is 70 miles per hour in the area where Teggatz was traveling. After the vehicle passed the officer, the officer turned his patrol car around and attempted to catch up to the vehicle. After catching up to Teggatz, the officer activated his emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop. The officer testified he was five or six car lengths from Teggatz at that point. The officer testified:

The vehicle slowed down to about 50 miles an hour from the 74 it was traveling at. And it went from the passing lane into the right-hand lane and then swerved over the fog line nearly into the ditch and then back into the travel lane and then the passing lane and accelerated away at about 100 miles an hour.

         The officer followed the vehicle after it sped off. The officer testified, while he attempted to catch up to Teggatz's vehicle, he was traveling "about 130 miles an hour and [Teggatz's vehicle] was pulling away from me." At trial, the officer estimated Teggatz's vehicle reached speeds of about 140 miles per hour during his pursuit. The officer called for assistance and continued to pursue the speeding vehicle. The officer testified while in pursuit, he observed the vehicle's lights turn off for about a half mile before he turned them back on again.

         [¶ 4] Officers deployed spike strips that blew out the front tires on Teggatz's vehicle. The officer in pursuit of the vehicle observed sparks coming from the front rims of Teggatz's vehicle. The officer testified he observed the car continue to drive on its rims on Highway 83 from mile marker 107 to about mile marker 111, where it came to a stop. The officer yelled commands to the driver, but received no response. Other officers arrived on scene. The officer testified Teggatz said the door was locked and asked officers to cut his battery cable. Officers broke the car door to get Teggatz out of the vehicle. Teggatz told officers to take a photo of the accelerator pedal, and the officer testified he took a photo of it, but the photo was lost. The officer also testified that, after being arrested, Teggatz stated he had fled in the past and gotten away. Teggatz moved for judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's case in chief, and the district court denied the motion.

         [¶ 5] At trial, Teggatz argued a malfunction with his car had caused his gas pedal to get stuck. Teggatz testified the car he was driving on the night of his arrest had been at a mechanic shop for almost a year, and he had picked it up two days before the incident. The State objected when Teggatz was asked what his mechanic said about the car and argued the question called for hearsay. Teggatz argued what the mechanic told him would fall under the present sense impression exception to hearsay because the mechanic was describing the condition of the car at the time it was observed. The district court sustained the objection. Teggatz also offered, and the district court admitted, the receipt from the mechanic into evidence. Teggatz testified he had concerns about the accelerator pedal in his car; he stated he had to be careful when he drove it and that the pedal would "fall to the left." Teggatz claimed when he went to pass a vehicle, he "hammered on [his] accelerator" and a piece of the pedal split, causing the accelerator to stick and the car to accelerate uncontrollably. Teggatz stated the car continued to accelerate, and he was not able to stop it until after he had driven over the spike strips.

         [¶ 6] After Teggatz rested, the State called rebuttal witnesses. Teggatz renewed his motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of evidence, and the district court again denied the motion. The jury found Teggatz guilty of ...

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