Driver arrested with .01 percent blood alcohol
EUGENE — After more than two months, prosecutors in Eugene have abandoned a drunken driving case where the evidence supported the driver's contention that she'd had only one beer at a party, and a urine test showed no drugs in her system.
City Prosecutor Dan Barkovic says police didn't do anything improper in arresting the driver even though her breath test showed a “low blow” blood alcohol content of .01 percent — well below the state limit of .08 percent.
The officer, Ryan Stone, “did what he was supposed to do,” Barkovic said, according to the Eugene Register-Guard Friday. Police "can't let people drive off if they think they're impaired."
The 23-year-old driver, Leah Bailey, was stopped Oct. 18 after leaving a friend's birthday party.
Stone said the car was speeding and crossed into a bicycle lane. Police reports say Stone found her legs and eyelids unsteady in field sobriety tests, her eyes red and her pupils dilated.
After the breath test showed a low level of alcohol, Stone called in an officer certified by the state as a drug recognition expert. He concluded Bailey was under the influence of marijuana.
She took a urine test, and State Police forensic scientists reported Nov. 20 there was no evidence of drug use.
The case was dropped last week, the Register-Guard reported, after the prosecutors concluded they couldn't prove the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.
Barkovic said most drunken driving cases involve blood alcohol content above .08 percent, the level at which it's automatically illegal to drive in Oregon.
But state law says a person can be convicted if found to be affected to a “noticeable or perceptible degree” by any combination of drugs and alcohol.
“What it comes down to is whether or not there is enough evidence of impairment,” Barkovic said.
He said he'd once won a conviction when a person's blood alcohol content was .04 percent, and no drug use was suspected.
When she was pulled over, Bailey said, she was insistent that she was not drunk or stoned and wonders whether that worked against her.
“I was definitely frustrated, and probably had a little bit of an attitude,” she said.
Stone, whose primary task is enforcing driving under the influence cases, said he wasn't authorized to talk about Bailey's case.
Bailey is an Alaska native and December graduate of the University of Oregon in human physiology and psychology. She pleaded guilty to crossing into a bike lane and paid a $200 fine. She also had to pay $250 to get her car back from impound.
Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com