Thursday, December 02, 2010

Drunk-to-keep-warm defence works for DUI suspect

A Jackson man's testimony that he drank alcohol in order to keep warm after - and not before - driving his vehicle into a culvert won over a panel of jurors on Wednesday. The 12-member jury spent nearly an hour deliberating the case against Thomas Drummond, who was found not guilty of driving while intoxicated on Feb. 6. The jury heard testimony from five witnesses total, including Drummond and the arresting officer. "It was a really curious set of facts. Ones that you don't come across every day," said Stephen Wilson, Drummond's defense attorney.

Wilson called Drummond and his client's girlfriend to the stand during the one-day trial at the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse. Drummond told the court he had been out with friends in Cape Girardeau the night of the accident and decided to take a different route home due to bad weather. While navigating icy roads, Drummond testified, he missed a turn, attempted to turn around and drove into a culvert near Route Y and Cape Girardeau County Road 621. Drummond said he wasn't intoxicated when he drove into the culvert but was when emergency workers and authorities arrived.

He was stranded for more than two hours, according to Wilson. "It was the day before the Super Bowl and he had just done some shopping," Wilson said Monday. "It was 32 degrees or colder out and he had brandy in the car, so he kept warm." Drummond's girlfriend, Sacha Riney, told the court she received a text message on her cell phone the night of the accident, around 2 a.m., that said he was stuck in a ditch in the country and his phone battery was dying.

Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper Jeff McCullough, a witness called by assistant prosecuting attorney Julia Koester, said fire and other emergency personnel arrived on scene around 4 a.m. They found Drummond unresponsive and stuck in a deep culvert at the end of a private driveway. The engine was running and the transmission was in park, testified Jeremy Laurentius, a volunteer county firefighter. Additionally, McCullough told the court that he administered a few sobriety tests at the scene, although Drummond refused some of the tests. McCullough also said that just after 5 a.m., when Drummond submitted to a breath test, his blood alcohol content was 0.148. If he had been found guilty, Drummond would have faced a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

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