DUI Case Puts Spotlight on Kentucky State Police Lab Tests

March 22, 2013

The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office says a judge’s decision to acquit a Louisville woman of an impaired driving charge shows the shortcomings of Kentucky State Police lab tests.

The Courier-Journal reported that the judge said the prosecutor failed to show that 38-year-old Monica Holt was under the influence of anything when she was arrested in 2011.

“It doesn’t matter what the commonwealth thinks, you can’t prove it,” she said from the bench on March 5. “You charged her with driving under the influence, and there is no proof what it is.”

Prosecutors said Holt told a jail officer that she took a prescribed painkiller before being pulled over, but her attorney challenged that contention and state police tests showed no drugs in her system.

Forensic analyst Jason Berry testified the lab tests for only 35 to 40 drugs. He said nine others are being added on April 1, but the lab lacks funding to test for more.

“Can you test for everything known?” Frazier asked him.

“We are not a private lab,” he said. “We lack the money, basically, to look for more drugs.”

Warren Diepraam, a former prosecutor fellow for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, said many state crime labs deal with similar issues. He said there are potentially thousands of substances that could impair a driver and “testing for 40 is often going to result in failure to detect.”

Holt’s lawyer, Jan Waddell, argued the case shouldn’t have even made it to trial considering the scant evidence.

“Miss Holt was the victim here,” Waddell told the jury during the trial. “There wasn’t a scintilla of scientific evidence of impaired driving.”

Holt was arrested after a truck driver called 911 reporting an erratic driver who was nearly hitting other vehicles.

Metro Officer Nathan McCoy pulled Holt over and noted in a citation that she couldn’t answer “the simple question of where she was coming from and fumbled with insurance papers.” He said he did not find any alcohol or drugs in her vehicle, but she failed a field-sobriety test.

“She was under the influence,” Frazier told the jury during the trial, “and everyone in her path was in danger.”

Waddell presented a different scenario. In his opening statement, he said the man who reported Holt followed her closely at a high rate of speed and if she failed a field-sobriety test it was “only because she was nervous — as she should have been.”

Topics Law Enforcement Drugs Kentucky

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