Woman found not guilty on DUI charge

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Marshall County jury of 11 women and one man took less than 45 minutes to find a woman not guilty of driving under the influence, though they decided she was guilty of violating the implied consent law.

Allison S. Rogers, 31, of Spring Hill, pleaded guilty at the start of her trial to the third misdemeanor charge: possession of Schedule IV drugs (Xanax and Valium). The pills were discovered in her pocket during a routine search after she had been arrested for DUI.

Lewisburg Police Officer Amanda Newcomb stopped Rogers in the Wal-Mart parking lot around 2 a.m. March 26, 2008, because the truck Rogers was driving had one headlight out.

Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Kate Lavery, Newcomb, who has been a Lewisburg officer since December 2007, admitted that it was her first solo DUI stop.

Newcomb told of smelling alcohol on the defendant's breath, and said Rogers seemed a little slow and slurred in her speech. Field sobriety tests were administered, and Rogers did not perform well.

Defense attorney John S. Colley III of Columbia had a recording of Newcomb's testimony in Lewisburg City Court regarding the same stop, and pointed out a number of discrepancies.

"It doesn't sound like she was talking about the same stop," said Colley.

In her closing argument, Lavery admitted that the lack of video of the stop was a problem, and that Newcomb had not been properly prepared for the preliminary hearing.

"The officer was sure of the DUI aspects of the stop," said Lavery. "Let's see if we can have the defendant learn something about DUI."

"Doesn't Ms. Rogers deserve better than this?" Colley asked the jury during his closing argument. "I hope I don't get pulled over when it's an officer's first DUI stop.

"Listen to the instructions and what 'beyond reasonable doubt means'," Colley urged the jury. "Evaluate the credibility of the witnesses, and remember there is no evidence of her driving behavior."

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler read the jury their instructions and reminded them that "the defendant is not required to prove her innocence."

It did not take the jury long to decide that they could not convict Rogers of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt, though they had no choice on the violation of implied consent charge, since the fact that Rogers refused a blood test was undisputed.

Rogers sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 17.