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State didn't prove man was drunk when driving

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a defendant's conviction of driving while intoxicated because the state failed to prove the man was intoxicated when he drove his moped.

Richard Gatewood appealed his conviction of Class D felony operating while intoxicated and the enhancement for being a habitual substance offender. Gatewood had back surgery a couple weeks earlier and was still taking pain medication. On his way to visit his mother in the hospital, he stopped at a liquor store and bought a pint of vodka that he planned to drink at home. Two hospital security guards saw Gatewood park his moped and stumble slightly as he entered the hospital, but they didn't see any alcohol on him and didn't think his behavior was out of the ordinary.

An hour later, the security guards found Gatewood asleep by his moped. When they woke him, they believed he was drunk so they called police. The police officer didn't find any alcohol on Gatewood or in or by his moped. Gatewood did have slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and trouble staying awake. A medical blood draw showed his blood alcohol concentration at 0.286.

In Richard Gatewood v. State of Indiana, No. 03A04-0908-CR-449, Gatewood argued there wasn't sufficient evidence to support he was impaired and had loss of normal control of his faculties when the security guards saw him drive his moped. The appellate court found the evidence didn't prove Gatewood was intoxicated when he drove. The security guards noted he had stumbled a bit walking into the hospital, but that many people stumble when they visit the hospital because they are sick. The guards didn't see him after he went inside the hospital until an hour later when he was found by his moped. Gatewood testified he didn't drink the vodka until he got to the hospital and couldn't remember where he tossed the bottle. The police officer had testified it would take 20 beers in an hour to make a 150-pound man that drunk; however, he wasn't able to provide any information regarding how much vodka he would have to drink to reach that same BAC.

"... this is not a case where Gatewood was involved in an accident, his driving exhibited signs of impairment, or he committed any traffic infractions," wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Because it reversed his conviction, the appellate court declined to address the state's cross-appeal of the suspension of Gatewood's habitual substance offender enhancement to community corrections.

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