Ronnie Junior Landis, by counsel James E. Hawkins, Jr. and
Thomas J. Prall, appeals the Circuit Court of Upshur
County's Amended Sentencing Order entered on November 29,
2015. Respondent State of West Virginia, by counsel Shannon
Frederick Kiser, filed a response.
Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record
on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately
presented, and the decisional process would not be
significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of
the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented,
the Court finds no substantial question of law and no
prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision
affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under
Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
and Procedural Background
a jury trial in February of 2015, petitioner was convicted of
driving under the influence of alcohol ("DUI")
causing death, a misdemeanor; negligent homicide, a
misdemeanor; leaving the scene of an accident involving death
or personal injury, a felony; and third offense driving while
license revoked for DUI, a felony. By an amended sentencing
order entered on November 29, 2015, the circuit court
sentenced petitioner to serve an aggregate term of 2 to 8
years of incarceration, after being credited for time served;
to pay a fine in the amount of $3, 500; and to pay costs in
the amount of $500.
evidence at trial revealed that on October 5, 2013,
petitioner was driving his truck on State Route 151 in Upshur
County, West Virginia, with Nicole Currence in the passenger
seat. Petitioner came upon a sharp turn, over-corrected his
truck, skidded up an embankment, and slammed into a tree. The
accident caused extensive damage to the top and passenger
side of the cab of the truck. Ms. Currence died as a result
of the accident.
witness came upon the accident and called 911. This witness
observed that petitioner was standing by the driver's
side door of the truck and was staggering from side to side.
This witness also testified that petitioner gave her his name
while she was calling 911, but that he left the scene on foot
before authorities arrived.
Virginia State Police Trooper Devin James Lowry testified
that he arrived at the crash scene at approximately 8:15
p.m., and allowed an emergency medical services crew to
attend to Ms. Currence while he looked for petitioner.
Trooper Lowry located petitioner walking down the road, away
from the scene. Petitioner became combative and attempted to
walk away when Trooper Lowry asked him questions about the
accident. According to Trooper Lowry, petitioner acted
erratically, smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot and glassy
eyes, and had a wobbly gait. Because of petitioner's
combative behavior, Trooper Lowry did not administer field
sobriety tests at the scene.
gave a statement to Trooper Lowry and claimed that Ms.
Currence was driving the truck at the time of the accident.
However, Trooper Lowry testified that Ms. Currence was not
positioned in the truck to where she could have been driving;
her legs were on the passenger side and the passenger side
door and roof was completely smashed in and unable to be
opened. According to Trooper Lowry, petitioner admitted that
he had been drinking all day. Trooper Lowry also observed
that petitioner was wearing a home confinement
County Deputy Sheriff Jason Queen also reported to the crash
scene. His description of the scene and petitioner's
condition was consistent with the testimony of Trooper Lowry.
Deputy Queen testified that petitioner smelled of alcohol,
was unsteady, and slurred his speech. Additionally, the
circuit court admitted photographs of the scene taken by
Deputy Queen that showed Ms. Currence's lower body
positioned in the passenger side of the vehicle. Another
State's witness, licensed paramedic and county medical
examiner Keith Queen, testified that Ms. Currence could not
have been in the driver's seat at the time of the
accident and then moved to the passenger seat given the
amount of damage done to the passenger side of the vehicle.
Mr. Queen testified that the collapse of the truck's roof
likely pinned Ms. Currence in place in the passenger seat.
the close of the State's evidence, petitioner moved for
judgment of acquittal on the basis that the State failed to
show that petitioner was driving at the time of the accident;
that the State failed to show that petitioner refused to give
information or render aid; and that prosecution for both DUI
causing death and negligent homicide violated the prohibition
against double jeopardy. The circuit court denied
petitioner's motion. Petitioner did not testify or call
any witnesses in his defense. Following the parties'
closing arguments and instructions from the circuit court,
the jury found petitioner guilty of the above-mentioned
circuit court sentenced petitioner to one year of
incarceration for DUI causing death (Count 1); one year of
incarceration for negligent homicide (Count 3); one to five
years of incarceration for leaving the scene of the accident
(Count 4); and one to three years of incarceration for
driving while revoked for DUI (Count 5). The circuit court
ordered that the one-year sentences for Counts 1 and 3 be
served concurrently; that the sentences for Counts 4 and 5 be
served consecutively; and that the sentences for Counts 4 and
5 be served consecutively to the concurrent sentences for
Counts 1 and 3. Following the denial of petitioner's
motion for reduction of sentence, the circuit court
resentenced petitioner by order entered on November 29, 2015.
This appeal followed.
appeal, petitioner raises the following six assignments of
error: (1) the convictions and sentences for DUI causing
death and negligent homicide violate principles of double
jeopardy; (2) the sentence imposed by the circuit court is
excessive under the circumstances of the case; (3) the
circuit court erred by not properly giving the petitioner
credit for time served or good time on his sentence; (4)
there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction
because the State failed to prove the cause of death of the
victim; (5) the circuit court erred when it denied petitioner
a separate trial on the charge of driving on a revoked
license; and (6) the circuit court made several errors at
trial, the cumulative effect of which denied the petitioner a
respect to our standard of review for petitioner's
arguments, this Court has held as follows:
In reviewing challenges to findings and rulings made by a
circuit court, we apply a two-pronged deferential standard of
review. We review the rulings of the circuit court concerning
a new trial and its conclusion as to the existence of
reversible error under an abuse of discretion standard, and
we review the circuit court's underlying factual findings
under a clearly erroneous standard. Questions of law are
subject to a de novo review.
Syl. Pt. 3, State v. Vance, 207 W.Va. 640, 535
S.E.2d 484 (2000). With this standard in mind, we now turn to
petitioner's assignments of error.
first argument is that his convictions for DUI causing death
and negligent homicide violate double jeopardy principles. We
review petitioner's claim de novo. See Syl. Pt.
1, State v. Sears,196 W.Va. 71, 468 S.E.2d 324
(1996). Petitioner argues that the two offenses are
substantially identical in that they both require a reckless
disregard for the safety of others. Petitioner further argues
that this case involves one act of driving and one death;
however, he was punished twice. Finally, petitioner adds that