David J. Celuch
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A prosecutor's mistakes led to a successful appeal

A driver in Oregon who receives a DUI conviction may want a new trial, but unless there was a legal error made during the first one, there may not be grounds to appeal the judge's decision. FindLaw points out that the error is not typically a mistaken fact, but an error in procedure or a suppression of evidence.

The Oregonian reports on a recent DUII conviction that went before the Oregon Court of Appeals. In this case, several errors affected the validity of the conviction. 

Law enforcement pulled a motorcycle operator over for not wearing a helmet. During the stop, the rider underwent field sobriety tests, and then was arrested. While in police custody, he took a breath test, which revealed that his blood alcohol content was 0.09 percent. 

This evidence pointed to a guilty verdict, and the motorcyclist was convicted. However, during the trial, the prosecutor made mistakes. 

First, the officer did not have a reason to suspect the rider of being under the influence when he pulled the motorcycle over. So, the prosecutor should have provided the results of the field sobriety tests to the court as important evidence, but did not.

Without that evidence, the results of the breath test were paramount, but the breath test was not administered until nearly two hours after the initial stop. Alcohol enters the bloodstream gradually, so the rider could have had several drinks right before getting on the motorcycle, and a breath test at that point may have indicated he was not legally drunk. Two hours later, he could have had either a higher or lower BAC. The prosecutor did not provide evidence one way or the other during the trial, so there was no way for the judge to know. That should have affected the decision. 

The Appeals Court overturned the guilty verdict.

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