As drunken driving defense attorneys here in the Garden State, we have litigated a great number of DWI cases throughout our many decades of collective trial experience. One could say that I and my colleagues have probably seen it all when it comes to defending nearly every manner of drunk driving case, but that might be a little too broad a statement as there are some events yet to occur that may be too bizarre for even the most outrageous TV or movie plot.
I and everyone on my legal staff take our jobs very seriously when it comes to helping those drivers accused of operating a motor vehicle while allegedly under the influence of alcohol, prescription medication or illegal drugs like cocaine or marijuana. Many times, drivers can be judged to be intoxicated by the police based on their actions or physical behavior, when in reality the circumstances may not necessarily warrant an arrest, but rather concern for the person’s well-being.
Take the Sussex County DWI-related arrest of an out-of-state woman earlier this year. Many readers may already have heard about this lady, who was arrested in the Sparta Township area after police found her vehicle following a report of a car that hit a stone wall in the area, but which had been driven off following the impact. Based on the news stories at the time, officers came upon the woman and her Volkswagen Jetta sometime after midnight early on a Friday morning, though the circumstances of that encounter were hardly routine.
According to police, once the officer in charge had pulled the suspect vehicle over, he noted that the young woman in the driver’s seat was wearing next to nothing, and on a January evening at that. The police report indicated that the only piece of clothing on the suspect was an unzipped leather jacket. Aside from that fact, the patrolman did notice that the car in question had fresh sheetmetal damage, which appeared to corroborate an earlier report of a car crashing into a wall near a residence not far away.
If the initial single-vehicle drive-away accident was not sufficient cause for the officer to question the woman about her part in the crash, it must be said that sitting half naked in one’s car in the early morning hours in the dead of winter may have raised several red flags in the officer’s mind. Needless to say, the patrolman asked the driver to perform a number of field sobriety tests after putting on some more clothes. The suspect reportedly failed those tests, after which she was taken into custody and charged with DWI, as well as breath test refusal and leaving the scene of a traffic accident, and failure to report the accident to police.
Several months later, the case was being heard in Sparta Township. The 26-year-old defendant, who has since lost her job over the incident, stated during a June hearing that another woman had been with her at a restaurant prior to the DWI arrest and that after drinking a couple martinis and a glass of wine — which according to court records “tasted funny” to the defendant — she could not remember much of anything until the next day. She said she remembered someone kissing her and touching her, but not in any specific sequence. It has been suggested that maybe someone slipped her a “date-rape” drug earlier that evening.
A key witness for the defense, a PhD recognized as an expert in pharmacology and toxicology, stated that due to the very strange circumstances surrounding the defendant’s arrest, such as her state of undress, scratches on her legs, and her inability to remember recent events, the woman should have been taken to a medical facility directly instead of the Sparta police department.
The expert witness stated that the most consistent explanation for what happened to the defendant was likely ingestion is some manner of the drug known as Rohipnol or “Roofies.” Rohipnol is suspected because it because that drug blocks memories from passing from the short-term memory center of the brain to the hippocampus. According to the defense, this is consistent with the fact that the defendant remembered only flashes of what happened after she took a sip of wine that evening.
The case itself will be heard again in another week, but one thing appears certain: this is not a typical drunk driving case. If this woman was truly taken advantage of by another individual through the surreptitious introduction of a drug into her drink, then there is much more to this than simple DWI or drug DUI. Time will tell, but the harm to this person has apparently already been done.
Unusual DWI Trial Continues, TheAlternativePress.com, July 1, 2013