In December, 2012, Tracy Garon got drunk, got behind the wheel of his 1973 Rolls Royce and ran a red light. He collided with an 81-year old couple on their way to Walmart, killing the husband instantly.
When the police arrived, Garon was placed curbside and as law enforcement investigated the scene. There was a Circle K convenience store located near the scene. As Garon was not handcuffed, he went into the Circle K and purchased a 24-ounce Miller Lite beer, returned to the curb, and began to drink the beer.
One of the investigating officers wrote in his report, “At this point, I had suspicion to believe this act was an attempt to defeat a DUI investigation.” Could the attempt work? Well, according to Reta Newman, Pinellas County Forensic Lab Director, “It could certainly muddy the waters.” The strategy is to drink alcohol after a crash and prior to a breathalyzer to make it more difficult to determine the driver’s DUI status at the time of the accident.
What Garon did not anticipate was that the officers would take three separate breathalyzer tests with the first one taken one hour after he consumed the beer in their presence and then the second and third tests one and then two hours later. Law enforcement did this to establish a baseline for his blood-alcohol content (BAC). The BAC findings were as follows:
|Time Post Consumption:||Blood-alcohol Content Level (BAC)|
The legal BAC limit is .08. Each test showed Garon’s BAC at above or close to three times the legal limit. Garon’s intent was thwarted by biology. Had the beer, in fact, spiked his BAC, it would have been reflected in at least one of the readings. Instead, the readings showed very little variation over the four-hour period subsequent to the accident which confirmed his body was metabolizing the alcohol.
Garon, who plead guilty to DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, was ordered to serve a 17 year prison sentence. But, could someone actually try this and get away with it? According to Newman, if enough time has passed and enough liquor consumed, it is possible to have a severe spike in the initial breathalyzer. But as was the case with Garon, subsequent tests would reflect a truer reading.
In a case out of Saint Petersburg, a woman was pulled over near her home as she was returning from a Christmas party. She ran into her home and drank an undetermined amount of liquor prior to the arrival of the breathalyzer unit. Once finished, she emerged from her home, refused to submit to the breathalyzer, and was taken into custody. In this case, she negotiated a plea dropping her charges from DUI to reckless driving.
Police warn that blowing a breathalyzer at or above .08 will get you arrested for DUI and trying to outsmart the system is not the way to go. There are even BAC applications for mobile devices on the market now. They cost between $50 and $100 and are said to help motorist make good decisions about whether or not to drive as it relates to their level of intoxication.
Christopher Ayala, CEO of Alcohoot, the makers of one such tool, had this to say “We will never condone drinking and driving. Our tool, while not evidentiary grade, but from a technical standpoint and for a $100 cost point, compared to a police-grade $5,000 unit, we think it stands up very, very well and certainly again, it’s another tool that somebody can use to help make smart, responsible decisions before getting behind the wheel.”
At Steinger, Iscoe & Greene, we have seen our share of the outcomes of bad decisions. The only smart, responsible decision , is not to drink before getting behind the wheel. Trying to outsmart the breathalyzer or using a cellular phone application to determine your level of intoxication just do not seem like the best options. In addition to the expense associated with DUI, there is also the very real chance that someone can be harmed, or as was the case with Tracy Garon, killed as a result of your poor decision.
Our firm exists to advocate for the injured. Part of that advocacy includes doing our part to educate the public on how to avoid these situations; even with education, accidents can still happen and people get hurt. If you or a family member has been injured in an accident and would like to discuss your case with a caring, knowledgeable, expert contact a Steinger, Iscoe & Greene office near you. Let us work on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.