Alcohol evidence in fatal crash will stand
April 15, 2002
A Box Elder woman charged in connection with a fatal car accident failed to convince a judge to thrown out critical evidence against her.
District Judge John Warner on Friday dismissed 27-year-old Melissa Moran's request to prevent prosecutors from using her blood alcohol level as evidence.
"It was my gut feeling that he would (deny the motion)" Carl White, her attorney, said before leaving the Hill County Courthouse.
White argued that officers lacked probable cause to have a blood sample drawn from Moran because they had declared her fit to drive after a traffic stop about three hours earlier. White also cited the fact that no alcohol or empty containers of alcohol were found in her vehicle after the wreck.
"It's not evidence that she had not been drinking," Warner told White near the close of the two-hour hearing.
Moran is charged with negligent vehicular assault in a Nov. 17 crash on U.S. Highway 87 that prosecutors said contributed to the death of 71-year-old Sarah Parisian. Moran fell asleep at the wheel, allowing her vehicle to drift into the oncoming lane and strike the van in which Parisian was a passenger, prosecutors said. Moran's trial is set for June 25.
A blood test showed her blood alcohol level after the accident was 0.12, over the legal limit of 0.10, according to a criminal complaint filed in court.
Earlier that morning, Moran was a passenger in her own vehicle when it was pulled over by Hill County sheriff's deputies. After arresting the driver Moran's boyfriend, 38-year-old Norman Ragels on a charge of driving under the influence, deputies cleared Moran to drive, White said.
A deputy had Moran walk in a straight line and concluded she was not impaired.
There was probable cause for law enforcement officers to take a blood sample, Warner said, as several officers at the accident scene detected the odor of alcohol on Moran.
She also had ample time to consume more alcohol before the crash, Warner said.
A considerable amount of barbed wire found tangled around the rear axle of her Chrysler LeBaron, Warner said, was also cause to seek a blood sample. The barbed wire was not on her vehicle during the earlier traffic stop.
A nurse from Northern Montana Hospital, Paulette Frey, testified that Moran was conscious and "oriented" at the hospital, where she agreed to provide the blood sample.