Yesterday marked another big DUI win in Ada County for my clients. Craig Bell was acquitted of Driving Under The Influence after a one day court trial. Ada County Magistrate Judge Thomas Watkins found that the State had failed to prove that Mr. Bell's was impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicating substances, and acquitted Mr. Bell of the charge against him.
Although I would love to take all the credit, the real difference makers were Mr. Bell, his mother, and his brother, all of which testified during the case. For those of you that have never provided testimony during a criminal trial, this is no easy matter and should be applauded. In particular I need to applaud Mr. Bell - having the courage and determination to stand up for what is right and tell your side of the story is very difficult! Your story is an important one because I believe it will provide others in your position much needed hope and guidance.
This case involved blood test results that were positive for prescription medications at the time Mr. Bell was pulled over. Unlike a breathalyzer, or a blood test for alcohol, blood testing for medications or drugs is a very accurate way to show that a substance is present in someones blood but it does not provide us with any other information. Certain drugs and medications will remain in your blood for long after you take them and long after any effects have worn off. Your body slowly filters out any presence of these substances over time. The classic example of this is marijuana which can be tested for weeks after ingestion. Essentially, all a blood test tells us is that at some point the individual came into contact with the tested substance.
This is why cases involving prescription medications are so difficult, people have a knee jerk reaction to positive blood tests - they think they are definitive evidence of guilt! However, the truth is, of course medications would show up in the blood of someone who is prescribed them! It would be odd if they didn't! We need much more information to determine if someone is Driving Under The Influence. We need to know: the quantity of the medication in the blood (quantitative analysis), how that quantity would effect this individual person (medications can have different effect on different people and building a tolerance is also a potential issue), what are the typical symptoms and side-effects of the medication, and what symptoms the were displaying when arrested.
Without any quantitative evidence the State is left guessing that the medication found in the blood test caused the unusual or erratic behavior. Now I agree, this is not a far leap if the individual is acting unusual or erratic and there is no other explanation. However, in this case there was another explanation: Mr. Bell's severe dehydration and lack of sleep.
There was no doubt that Mr. Bell was acting unusual at the time of his arrest. Mr. Bell testified that he remembers nothing from the day of his arrest, or several days both before and after. Mr. Bell took the stand in his own defense and admitted, after watching the video of his arrest, that his behavior was concerning. In fact, Mr. Bell admitted that based upon the video evidence he should not have been driving in the state he was in. His first statement to Law Enforcement was that he was dreaming, he was often confused, and he seemed "out of it."
What law enforcement either did not know or didn't bother to investigate, was that Mr. Bell was properly prescribed the medications found in the blood tests and had recently been admitted to the hospital for severe dehydration and sleep deprivation. It turns out that for days before his arrest, and for days after, Mr. Bell was acting out of character. As the testimony showed, his friends, family, and coworkers were concerned for him but at a loss for what to do. Mr. Bell had a long history of sleep problems and his family was convinced he just needed a good nights sleep to get back to normal. He was even provided the day off from work to get sleep the day he was arrested.
Lucky for Mr. Bell, and everyone in Ada County, there is still at least one judge that understands the high standard of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt." Without evidence showing that either: 1. Mr. Bell's unusual behavior was caused by the medications found in his blood, or 2. Mr. Bell's unusual behavior was not caused by his severe dehydration and lack of sleep, Mr. Bell could not be found guilty of DUI. Judge Watkins made the correct decision in this case and acquitted Mr. Bell of the DUI charge.
Too many people plead guilty to DUI not because they feel they are guilty but because they believe the blood evidence is overwhelming! They think that no one will believe them! Do NOT allow yourself to plead guilty to a DUI charge just because law enforcement found properly prescribed medications in your system. Call me to discuss your case today!
FYI - Mr. Bell and his family own Bell's Automotive in Kuna. They do a great job - I just recently took my own truck there! I would recommend their shop to anyone.