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Drunk Driving Conviction Against North Carolina Woman Overturned

Two years ago, police officers accused a North Carolina woman of drunk and drugged driving. They said that she was impaired when she ran into an accident scene in Gastonia. That accident left one person dead and three injured. During the trial, the prosecutors successfully convinced a jury that the woman was guilty of eight charges, including drunk driving and second-degree murder.

This month, an appeals court reversed the verdict. Instead of spending 34 years in jail, the woman will be able to return to her life.

The appellate court agreed with the woman that investigators and prosecutors made a mistake during the first trial. The prosecution's expert witness testified that the woman's blood alcohol content could have revealed that she was drunk when the accident happened in 2008. But the woman was never given a breath test.

The only evidence police had that she was drinking before the accident was that they smelled alcohol on her breath 10 hours later. There was no way police or prosecutors could have proven that she was actually driving drunk at the time.

The appellate court recognized that prosecutors must be able to prove a person's guilty, and that in this case, they failed to do so. After two years of lengthy court battles, the woman who was accused of drunk driving will now be freed.

Defending against drunk driving charges can be difficult, especially with a jury trial. Jurors can be tempted to let their emotions override their intelligence. In this situation, emotional testimony from victims of the crash likely influenced the jury's decision. The appeals court recognized that showing compassion for the victims does not require punishing a woman whom prosecutors did not prove to be guilty.

Source: WBTV.com, "Conviction overturned in deadly drunk driving accident," Sarah Batista, 19 Nov 2010

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