COOS COUNTY, Oregon — A bizarre case in southern Oregon reverses a DUII conviction.
One Coos Bay-area driver whose blood alcohol content or BAC was .09 won’t get a DUII. That’s what the Oregon Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
“The facts of the case are unusual because it’s almost like all the bad things that could have happened against the prosecution happened here,” said Yaschar Saparast, defense attorney.
The ruling came as a surprise to local defense attorneys like Yashar Saparast who’s not involved in the case.
He’s been handling DUII cases in Jackson County for 13 years.
“There are two ways to prove a DUII in court. One is, what everybody knows, the .08 or above BAC but also in cases where that doesn’t exist, for example, you can prove intoxication to a noticeable and perceptible degree,” said Saparast.
According to court documents, when Charles Hedgpeth was pulled over in Coos County in 2014, it took police nearly two hours to give him a breathalyzer test.
Sarparast says the state couldn’t prove Hedgpeth was drunk two hours earlier despite blowing a .09.
“Somebody could have drunk a lot of alcohol immediately before driving, so by the time of arrest they were really a .06, but by the time they took the test hours later they had risen to .08,” said Saparast.
Hedgpeth didn’t have any alcohol after his arrest.
Because the state didn’t submit details of a field sobriety test to the court or any other evidence of impairment, the supreme court reversed the conviction.
“It’s very limited to its specific facts,” said Patrick Green, Jackson Co. Deputy District Attorney.
Green calls the case ‘peculiar.’
In Jackson County, he says, officers use both the BAC and other signs of impairment as evidence in DUII cases.
“If it’s a breath test that’s above .08 we argue it both under that theory… but also under the theory that they’re noticeably and adversely affected by the effects of the alcohol,” said Green.
Green says this case won’t affect how the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office prosecutes future DUII cases.
Saparast agrees, but for a different reason.
“It’s going to be difficult and rare to find cases so similar to this one where you simply have a long period of time until the BAC is taken and also there are no other indicators on the record of intoxication,” said Saparast.
Both attorneys say it’s a common misconception to think anything above or at .08 in Oregon is all you need to get a DUII.
If you blew below the legal limit, you could still be arrested if you show signs of noticeable impairment like weaving on the road, slurred speech, or bloodshot eyes.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia.
She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.