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Court upholds habitual drunken driving conviction

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The N.C. Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a habitual drunken driver last arrested after a single-car crash in Spring Hope three years ago.

William Earl Silver Jr., 39, crashed his car in April 2017 within sight of an off-duty Rocky Mount police officer. Silver then ran from and was captured by a Spring Hope police officer, carried back to the scene by a Nash County deputy and charged with driving while impaired by a trooper with the N.C. Highway Patrol. 

A jury convicted Silver of habitual drunken driving. Through his attorney James Parish, Silver appealed the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Silver claimed his arresting officer didn’t have probable cause to arrest him.

Marcus Brown is a Rocky Mount police officer and member of the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force. On Jan. 21, 2017, Brown, while off duty, traveled eastbound on U.S. 64 through Nash County. He noticed a swerving car with its left turn signal blinking endlessly, according to the appeals court’s synopsis of the case. Brown followed the vehicle for about 10 miles. Afraid to let the vehicle out of his sight as it continued to swerve wildly, Brown followed the vehicle and called 911.

While on the phone with an emergency telecommunicator, Brown saw the swerving car almost strike another vehicle, lose control, spin around and crash into the cable wires that divide the highway’s eastbound and westbound lanes. Brown didn’t see any obstructions in the road prior to the crash and didn’t recall seeing the vehicle’s brake lights, according to court documents.

After the wreck, Brown pulled his vehicle of the highway, never averting his eyes from the crash site. He would later identify Silver as the driver of the wrecked car.

As Spring Hope Police Officer Durwood Radford arrived at the scene, Silver climbed out of his car and walked into the woods.

Radford verified no one else was in the crashed car and said he detected the odor of alcohol. Radford then followed Silver into the woods. 

When he caught up to Silver, within about 40 feet, Radford activated his flashlight in strobe mode. Silver ran into a tree and fell down. Radford reported Silver had bloodshot, watery eyes and breathed heavily with a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, according to court records.

Deputy Cody Williams with the Nash County Sheriff’s Office pulled up as Radford escorted Silver out of the woods. Radford placed Silver in the front passenger seat of Williams’ cruiser, and Williams drove back to the scene of the wreck, about 100 yards away. 

Williams smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from Silver, along with bloodshot, watery eyes. 

At the same time all that occurred, Trooper Bradley Boone, a recent graduate in the third phase of field training, responded to a call of a possibly intoxicated driver traveling east on U.S. 64. Trooper Michael Davidson, a field trainer, accompanied Boone.

When the troopers arrived, Boone attempted to conduct sobriety tests, but Silver wouldn’t cooperate and complained he needed to go to the hospital because he said his neck had been broken.

Boone received reports about Silver’s swerving, wreck and flight from the scene from dispatch, Brown and Radford. Due to Silver’s reckless driving, wreck, odor of alcohol, red glassy eyes and refusal to take sobriety tests, Boone arrested Silver on an impaired driving charge. Boone placed Silver in an ambulance and read him his Miranda rights. At Nash UNC Health Care, Silver refused treatment and wouldn’t provide blood or urine samples to hospital staff.

A grand jury indicted Silver in April 2017 on charges of driving while impaired, habitual impaired driving and driving while license revoked. In October of that year, Silver filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of a warrantless search and seizure, including all statements he made. 

After a hearing in August 2018, N.C. Superior Court Judge Quentin Sumner denied the motion. That same month, a jury convicted Silver of habitual impaired driving and driving while license revoked.

The appeals court determined Silver’s argument that the trial court should have suppressed evidence Boone presented was the sole argument that Sumner erred. During his trial, Silver didn’t object to any of Boone’s direct examination testimony.

Silver’s criminal record includes driving while impaired in Wake County in 2011; driving with a revoked license in Nash County in 2012; aggravated driving while impaired in Nash County in 2014; resisting a police officer in Wake County in 2017; driving with a revoked license in Nash County in 2017;  and driving while impaired in Nash County in 2017. 

Silver served a total of two years and eight months in prison. He remains under post-release supervision until at least September, according to information provided by the N.C. Department of Public Safety.