A Concord District Court jury today found Attorney Chris Spring’s client not guilty of operating under the influence of alcohol, despite her involvement in a serious one-car accident and her Breathalyzer reading of .18.
After finishing work late one evening, the defendant went to a bar with a few of her colleagues. After drinking at the bar, she began driving home on Route 2. As she passed through Lincoln, she lost control of her car and slammed into a telephone pole. The force of the collision snapped the pole and caused the defendant’s car to spin 180 degrees and come to rest in the middle of the street. The defendant’s airbag deployed and she was shaken up. When a Lincoln cop showed up, the defendant was standing outside of her car. The cop noticed the defendant was speaking with slurred speech, was unsteady on her feet, and had glassy, bloodshot eyes. The defendant insisted she had not been driving her car, but nobody else was in the area. An ambulance arrived to transport the defendant to the hospital. EMTs who treated the defendant smelled alcohol coming from the defendant’s mouth. The defendant admitted to the EMTs that she had been driving.
At the hospital, the defendant continued to exhibit symptoms of alcohol intoxication. She was belligerent and uncooperative with the police officers who accompanied her and the smell of alcohol emanating from her mouth became stronger. After the defendant was treated, the cops began escorting her outside for the ride back to the police station. As the defendant walked out of the hospital, she lost her balance and fell into a wall. Back at the station, the defendant underwent the booking process and decided to take the Breathalyzer test. She blew a .18, which is more than twice the legal limit. She was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol.
Attorney Spring argued at trial that the defendant’s accident was the result of the terrible weather conditions (it had been raining all evening) and not alcohol intoxication. When the defendant’s car slammed into the telephone pole and caused the airbag to deploy, the force of the collision had temporarily stunned the defendant. She was unsteady on her feet and had slurred speech because she was experiencing the aftereffects of the collision, not because she was drunk. Attorney Spring reminded the jury it is not illegal to drink alcohol and then drive – it becomes illegal only when somebody drinks enough alcohol that her ability to drive safely is impaired.
The most damaging piece of evidence for the defendant was the high Breathalyzer reading. Attorney Spring had been prepared to argue that the reading was tainted because when an airbag deploys, smoke containing cornstarch or talcum powder (used to line the airbag) is expelled. The defendant would have sucked some of that powder into her lungs, and some of that powder would have then entered into the Breathalyzer machine during the test, causing a false positive. Ultimately, the prosecutor decided not to attempt to introduce the Breathalyzer result at trial, because ongoing state-wide problems with the machine have recently cast doubt on the reliability of the results. The jury deliberated for about an hour before finding the defendant not guilty.
Most OUI cases are beatable. If you have been charged with operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should call Attorney Chris Spring and schedule a free consultation to explore your options.