District Court, Nephi Department The Honorable Jennifer A.
Brown No. 141600121
Phelps, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes and Jeffrey S. Gray, Attorneys for Appellee
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Jill M.
Pohlman and Ryan M. Harris concurred.
Sandra Dee Bruhn appeals her convictions for possession of a
controlled substance and operating or riding in a motor
vehicle with an open container. Bruhn contends that her trial
counsel provided ineffective assistance and requests that we
reconsider our prior denial of her rule 23B motion to remand
to the district court for fact-finding.
In her rule 23B motion, Bruhn argues that, because her trial
counsel was aware that Bruhn could not remember the details
of the events surrounding her criminal charges, he provided
ineffective assistance by failing to request a competency
evaluation before trial. Because knowledge of Bruhn's
memory loss alone did not require her trial counsel, under
the facts of this case, to request a competency evaluation
and Bruhn has alleged no other facts that would have
suggested that she was incompetent to stand trial, we decline
to reconsider our denial of her rule 23B motion. And because
Bruhn has conceded that she cannot prevail on appeal without
a rule 23B remand, we affirm her convictions.
Two individuals were involved in a single-vehicle accident.
When law enforcement arrived on the scene of the accident,
they discovered a woman "inside the vehicle over on the
passenger side in the front seat" and a man who
"appeared to have been ejected [from the vehicle] that
was lying on the left side of the vehicle towards the back of
it" who later identified himself as the driver. After
the driver and the woman were transported to the hospital,
law enforcement searched the interior of the vehicle and the
scattered debris. Documents in the vehicle glovebox
identified Bruhn as the registered owner of the vehicle.
Bruhn's driver license was also found in a purse in the
debris, identifying Bruhn as the woman found in the passenger
side of the wrecked vehicle.
In Bruhn's purse, an officer discovered a purple latex
glove with the open end tied in a knot. In the process of
removing the glove from the purse, the officer felt a crystal
substance inside the glove. Suspecting that the crystal
substance was methamphetamine, he cut the glove open and
performed a field test that confirmed his suspicion.
In another bag found at the scene, law enforcement discovered
three "dime baggies" of methamphetamine, a pipe for
smoking methamphetamine, a prescription bottle of Metadate
pills,  a small baggie of marijuana, and a pipe
for smoking marijuana. Among the debris around the wrecked
car, officers also discovered an open container of alcohol
inside a bag, plastic baggies and latex gloves inside another
bag, and a prescription bottle of methylphenidate pills.
According to the labels on both bottles of prescription
pills, neither had been prescribed to Bruhn.
Based on the drugs, drug paraphernalia, and open container
discovered at the accident scene, the State charged Bruhn
with possession of methamphetamine, possession of Metadate,
possession of methylphenidate, possession of marijuana, and
operating or riding in a motor vehicle with an open
container. Bruhn and the driver were tried together.
During opening statements, Bruhn's trial counsel told the
jury that Bruhn "was seriously injured in [the]
accident" and, as a result, "she lost a lot of her
memory and not a lot of [it] . . . has returned to her."
Her trial counsel added that Bruhn "is going to be
listening to what transpires today, look[ing] at the
exhibits, and then she'll make a determination as to
whether or not she can remember anything that she can offer
to you by way of testimony." Bruhn ultimately chose not
to testify. In closing argument, Bruhn's trial counsel
again referenced Bruhn's memory loss and her injuries
from the accident, stating, "I can tell you that Sandra
Bruhn has gone through a lot on this, I've indicated that
she couldn't testify because there is a lot of her memory
that is gone from the accident." He urged the jury to
"not assume that she knew what was in those bags just
because her driver's license was in there" and
suggested that there were questions regarding possession that
"it would have been [helpful] to have been able to
answer but we cannot." At the conclusion of the trial,
the jury convicted Bruhn of all charges.
After trial but before sentencing, Bruhn submitted a letter
to the district court in which she "admit[ted]
possession of meth, possession of marijuana, and possession
of the prescriptions." At her sentencing hearing, Bruhn
stated that she was prepared to "take
accountability" for her actions and admitted that she
moved her identification into the purse "with all of the
drugs." Bruhn also stated that she appeared to behave
differently at sentencing than she had during her initial
court appearances because she had previously been suffering