A Florida fire department captain in Cumberland County for a combination family getaway and vacation in June 2017 was convicted of drunk driving by a Criminal Court jury last week.
Shane Kelly Downs, Melbourne, FL, was specifically found guilty to driving under the influence and driving under the influence, per se (meaning blood alcohol content was higher than .08 percent), by law were then merged into one conviction.
He was fined by the jury $500, is to serve 48 hours in jail, loss of license for one year and is to pay court costs. Charges of possession of a handgun while intoxicated and speeding were dropped prior to the case being given to the jury for deliberations.
Motion for a new trial is expected to be filed, and that motion is tentatively set to be heard on Jan. 22.
Downs, represented by Randall York, told the jury he was not intoxicated despite drinking beers at a family cookout. He claims he had only drunk five to seven beers over an extended period of time prior to 9 p.m. June 28, 2017.
He testified his response to the traffic stop was a triggering of his post-traumatic stress disorder suffered because of his experiences responding to emergency responses relating to his job.
That, coupled with his not understanding Tennessee law requiring a search warrant for a blood draw for the purpose of testing alcohol content levels, caused him to balk at instructions from the arresting state trooper.
Assistant District Attorney James Hargis presented Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Jake Bramer’s testimony and video from his patrol car dash cam prior to lunch last Wednesday. The video shows Downs failing to complete a field sobriety test and being taken to the hospital for the blood draw.
Bramer was on duty in the area of Peavine Rd. and I-40 when he observed Downs’ 2014 Toyota Tacoma traveling 64 mph in a 45 mph zone at 2 a.m. He stopped the vehicle, attempted to administer the sobriety test and ended up arresting Downs.
In an early hearing, and again last Wednesday, York attempted to have the results of the blood test thrown out because the record with the blood sample did not have the signature or the name of the person drawing the blood. It was also alleged that Bramer was not in the room when the blood was drawn, which is a legal requirement.
Hargis countered that argument that there is not law that requires either signature or name on documents accompanying blood samples, and Judge Gary McKenzie agreed.
“I think it is more of a procedural issue,” McKenzie noted in his ruling, and not a legal issue. “And I think we can all agree that it does not affect admissibility.”
After lunch, Hargis called TBI Special Agent Dawn Swiney, a toxicologist, who testified that the blood alcohol samples she received identified as belonging to Downs tested at .122 percent, which is above the .08 percent classified by Tennessee as too intoxicated to drive.
Swiney testified that alcohol affects judgment, reaction and multi-tasking abilities, and that while one might be able to walk a straight line while intoxicated, an intoxicated person’s ability to slow down, brake, apply a turn signal and turn at the same time is inhibited.
York questioned Swiney on the affect of using isopropyl swabs when taking blood to test, and asked about a person’s weight, how much they ate and gender affecting a blood alcohol test.
He asked Swiney if she would be surprised to learn the video shows Downs pulling over safely and doing field sobriety tests. She responded that it was not surprising, because each act was an independent one and not part of multi-tasking.
Downs was the only defense witness and after being cautioned about his right to not testify, stood before the jury.
He estimated that he had drunk five to seven beers over the course of five hours, that he stopped drinking at 9 p.m., and decided to leave the family campfire when two family members got into a verbal dispute. He left to drive one home.
Downs told the jury the reason he objected to the blood draw is because the search warrant process was foreign to him. “We don’t do search warrants to draw blood in Florida,” he testified.
In closing, Hargis kept it simple. He told the jury they saw the video, heard the testimony and had the results of the blood test.
York argued that Downs’ failure to complete the field sobriety test was misunderstood by law enforcement. “He wanted to know the consequences of his refusal,” York told the panel.
“There was no bad driving, no weaving, no slurred speech,” York continued. “He conducted himself as a gentleman, and therefore, you have reasonable doubt (whether Downs was too intoxicated to drive).”
McKenzie accepted the jury’s verdict and set the motion for a new trial hearing date for Jan. 22.