WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The defendant in a Harrison Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs case pleaded guilty last week to the non-criminal traffic infraction of Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol. The defendant, who could have faced more serious felony charges, allegedly drove his vehicle over the divider on an Interstate Highway in Harrison, New York, flipping the vehicle onto its roof, which resulted in the passenger being thrown from the vehicle suffering a fractured skull.
The defendant was represented by White Plains attorney John Campbell of the firm Tilem and Campbell. Mr. Campbell believes this was a fair resolution to a case in which the prosecution had both credibility and scientific problems. First, explained Mr. Campbell, the arresting officer swore in a statement that he smelled the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage.
However, a subsequent blood test revealed that Mr. Campbell's client had absolutely no alcohol in his blood at all. The test revealed what Mr. Campbell described as "a double zero." "So much for the strong odor of alcohol," said Mr. Campbell. Further, observed Mr. Campbell, "This would have been an interesting area of attack on cross-examination of the officer considering it would have been impossible to have smelled any alcohol at all."
Mr. Campbell noted that while the test of his client's blood did indicate the presence of marihuana, the testing method used by the Westchester County Forensic Laboratory did not provide what Campbell described as a "quantitative analysis." In other words, explained Campbell, "The testing method utilized on my client's blood sample did not provide any evidence concerning the amount or concentration of marihuana in my client's blood. This testing method simply indicated a 'positive' finding for marihuana."
Because marihuana is detectable in one's blood for as long as thirty days, without a quantitative analysis there is no way of knowing if the marihuana found in one's blood actually impaired their ability to drive. While some states, such as Michigan, make it illegal to drive with any marihuana at all in your system regardless of quantity in the blood, when the marihuana was ingested and even if the levels are so low as to not cause any impairment (as when one has used marihuana weeks prior to the blood test), New York has not done the same. In New York, it is illegal to drive while your ability to do so is impaired by drugs (such as marihuana).
Therefore, in New York, the prosecution must not only prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had marihuana in his or her system, they must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the marihuana impaired the defendant's ability to drive. Without a quantitative analysis "the finding of marihuana metabolites in one's blood alone without any evidence as to quantity is not only highly prejudicial, it borders on palpably irrelevant."
From a scientific standpoint, therefore, Mr. Campbell believes the prosecution would have a had a problem proving that his client was impaired by marihuana use considering the prosecution had no idea how much marihuana was in his system or when it was ingested.
The prosecution's inability to pinpoint when the marihuana was allegedly used and how much was still in his client's system combined with the officer's credibility problems could have provided the jury with the reasonable doubt needed to acquit at trial, explained Mr. Campbell.
In the end however, as Mr. Campbell was submitting the final paperwork necessary to put the case on the trial calendar, a "fair deal was reached wherein my client pleaded guilty to two non-criminal traffic infractions." Mr. Campbell commended the prosecution for dealing in good faith throughout the months long case and is satisfied that both his client and the prosecution walked from this case with a fair deal.
Tilem and Campbell is a White Plains law-firm representing those charged with a wide variety of offenses both criminal and non-criminal and can be contacted at 888-DWI-COUNSEL (888-394-2686).
SOURCE Tilem and Campbell