A jury unanimously found Tyler Smith‘s client not guilty of operating under the influence after trial. If convicted, the client faced a maximum penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. He also faced a mandatory minimum penalty of 48 hours in jail, a $500 fine, and a 150-day license suspension.
The police stopped the client for speeding late at night. The officer asked about drinking almost immediately. The client admitted to two beers, but later admitted to having five beers. After field sobriety testing, the officer asked the client to rate himself on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being “completely sober, so no alcohol in your life” and 10 being “the drunkest you’ve ever been.” The client rated himself as a “six” on the 1-10 scale. The police arrested the client and brought him to the station for a breath test on an Intoxilyzer 8000. The result was a .17. The legal limit in Maine is .08.
At trial, the State called the arresting officer and the head chemist of Maine’s breath testing program. The chemist testified as an expert witness and told the jury that the .17 breath result was reliable.
The defense called no witnesses and presented its case through cross-examination. Using the officer’s own training from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tyler effectively had the officer explain to the jury why the client’s performance on field sobriety tests was inconsistent with that of an impaired driver. And, although the arresting officer properly administered the breath test, Tyler established through the State’s own expert witness that neither the scientific safeguards or the machine itself are perfect. Tyler then argued to the jury that the State failed to rule out all reasonable doubts. The jury agreed and found the client not guilty.
The not guilty verdict shows that even a properly administered breath test is not conclusive proof of guilt, even with a high breath test.