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Weepy wedding guest gets conviction affirmed

October 31, 2018

Just about everybody cries at weddings, but a woman arrested while driving home from a marriage ceremony was unable to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that the tears she shed “by the second” in the back of the police cruiser falsely elevated the concentration of alcohol in her breath.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies found Brittanie Corbin in the driver’s seat of a disabled Chevy Cobalt along the shoulder of I-74. Corbin said she was returning to Indianapolis after attending a friend’s wedding, and the deputies observed Corbin has “red glassy eyes and slow…slurred speech.”

While one of the deputies and Corbin’s male passenger looked under the car’s hood, another deputy had Corbin step out of the car and noticed she was “unsteady on her feet” and emitted “an overwhelming odor of alcohol.” Corbin initially said she had “may a glass or two” of wine and later added, “…it feels like three maybe…I haven’t had many.”

The deputy told Corbin he wanted to conduct some tests “just to make sure she was okay to drive.” Corbin agreed and was administered a horizontal gaze nystagmus along with a breathalyzer test. Based on the results, the deputy determined he had probable cause to arrest Corbin for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

After she consented to a certified chemical test, Corbin was handcuffed and taken to the Montgomery County Jail. Corbin cried the entire trip. About an hour and a half after the deputies first encountered Corbin in her disabled car, she was given a chemical breath test. The result revealed Corbin had 0.152 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

Corbin was subsequently charged with Count I, operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of 0.15 or more, a Class A misdemeanor, and Count II, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a Class C misdemeanor. At the end of a bench trial, the court found Corbin guilty of Count I and dismissed Count II. She was sentenced to 180 days, of which all, except for time served, was suspended to probation.

Corbin appealed on several grounds.

In particular, she argued the results of her chemical breath test were inadmissible because the state was unable to certify that the test was properly administered. According to the Indiana Department of Toxicology procedures, the individual being tested must have had nothing to eat, drink or smoke and must not have put any foreign substance in his or her mouth or respiratory tract.

Corbin posits that during her ride to the jail, she was generating “fresh tears…by the second” and those tears were foreign objects that entered her mouth within 15 minutes of the chemical breath test. 

At trial, the deputy testified that he examined Corbin’s mouth at the jail and did not see any foreign objects. About 20 minutes later, he checked that Corbin had not eaten, drunk or smoked anything and then administered the test.

The Court of Appeals did not find any evidence to support Corbin’s argument and affirmed her conviction in Brittanie R. Corbin v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-12.

“Deputy (Ethan) Redmon testified that although Corbin cried on her way to jail, he could not tell if the tears entered her mouth,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the court. “Because there is no evidence that Corbin’s tears entered her mouth within fifteen minutes of her chemical breath test, and Corbin failed to present any scientific evidence in support of her claim, we conclude that the test was properly administered, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the test results.”

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