A Missouri woman who was handed a five-year prison sentence for causing a fatal drunk driving accident in 2012 will get another chance to make her case in court after an appeals court ruled on Dec. 22 that the judge in her original trial gave incomplete instructions to the jury. According to media reports, the jury in the case was not provided with sufficient information regarding the legal definitions of intoxication and driving under the influence. The Columbia resident was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in December 2014.
The woman claims that she was drugged and raped before getting behind the wheel, and it was this, rather than the alcohol she consumed, that caused her to cross into the path of oncoming traffic on Interstate 70 in Montgomery County. The accident took the life of a 35-year-old man. In addition to questions concerning the instructions given to the jury, the woman’s attorney contends that blood samples collected by law enforcement following the crash were stored incorrectly by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
The appellate court ruled that the judge in the case should have given the jury more complete information about the level of alcohol in a blood sample required to establish that a motorist was under the influence. The prosecutor did not comment on the ruling.
This case shows that those accused of drunk driving can expect little sympathy from prosecutors even when criminal defense attorneys make persuasive arguments on their behalf, and this is particularly true when an accident involving serious injury or death occurs. The improper storage of blood samples may lead to misleading test results when the presence of sugar, yeast or bacteria in the blood vial cause fermentation to continue after the sample has been collected.