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The first degree involuntary manslaughter conviction of a woman has been upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals. The court was not impacted by her lawyer's argument that the woman's boyfriend's cause of death had not been properly established. In November 2013, the woman had been sentenced to five years' probation and 120 days in jail after it was determined that she had been driving while intoxicated at the time of the fatal accident in March 2011.

The 38-year-old Miller County woman was driving on Highway 52 near St. Elizabeth when she lost control of her pickup truck. Her boyfriend was killed after being ejected from the truck when it rolled over. The woman's blood alcohol level was found to be .13 percent when she was tested after the accident. The legal driving limit in Missouri is .08 percent.

The woman's attorneys claimed that the manslaughter charge was not valid because a coroner, rather than a qualified pathologist, had determined that the woman's boyfriend died as a result of injuries suffered in the accident. While a homicide investigation usually calls for a medical examination or autopsy by a pathologist, the determination of a coroner is deemed to be sufficient in certain situations. After rejecting the appeal, the court revoked the woman's supervised bond and ordered her to be taken into custody.

While this appeal may have been unsuccessful, it does demonstrate that all evidence relied on by prosecutors is subject to scrutiny. Other evidence that may be challenged by criminal defense attorneys in drunk driving cases could include the results of blood alcohol and field sobriety tests. They may also question the actions and statements of the police officers involved.

Source: Lake News Online, "Court upholds Miller County woman's manslaughter conviction", April 01, 2014

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