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State v. Luna

Court of Appeals of Idaho

July 18, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LACY STARR LUNA, Defendant-Respondent.

         2016 Opinion No. 50

         Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. D. Duff McKee, District Judge; Hon. Randall F. Kline, Magistrate.

         Order of the district court, on intermediate appeal from the magistrate, reversing denial of motion to dismiss, affirmed.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for appellant.

          Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          Coffel & Beaber, P.C.; Alan J. Coffel, Nampa, for respondent.

          Alan J. Coffel argued.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         The State of Idaho appeals from the district court's intermediate appellate decision reversing the magistrate's order denying Lacy Starr Luna's motion to dismiss. Specifically, the State contends that even though several of Luna's breathalyzer test results were under the legal limit, she was nonetheless subject to prosecution under Idaho Code § 18-8004(2) because those results were unreliable. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Officers responded to a report of a single vehicle accident. The driver, Luna, admitted to consuming alcohol, but denied being involved in an accident. After the required fifteen-minute observation period, officers administered a breath test. The first test strip reported three breath alcohol concentration (BAC) results: 0.146, 0.021, and 0.013. Officers suspected that Luna was attempting to defeat the test by blowing around the tube. They administered a second test. The second test strip reported two test results: 0.011 and 0.000. The officers again noticed that Luna was attempting to manipulate the test by plugging the tube with her tongue and blowing out the sides of her mouth. Officers advised Luna to cooperate by providing a complete breath sample. On the third test, the breathalyzer reported three results: insufficient, 0.112, and 0.115. Thus, out of the eight breath samples solicited by officers, the machine returned completed results on seven samples. Luna was arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), Idaho Code § 18-8004.

         Luna filed a "Motion to Dismiss/Motion in Limine" contending that, pursuant to I.C. § 18-8004(2), the State could not prosecute her for DUI because three of the seven machine-validated test results were under the legal limit of 0.08 and, per the statutory language of Section 18-8004(2), the State was precluded from prosecuting where a valid result is below 0.08.[1] In response, the State argued that because Luna was manipulating the test to achieve the result below 0.08, the magistrate should allow prosecution, as the low results were unreliable. The magistrate held as follows:

Based upon the testimony that's been presented, the Court's going to make a finding that based upon the officer's testimony, based on his training and experience that there are ways to manipulate the test which would not render an insufficient but would still not be a true representation, the Court's going to deny your motion . . . . The Court's going to indicate that all three tests would be brought before--can be brought before the jury. They can figure out the validity or the trustworthiness. It becomes a factual matter at that point.

         Luna entered a conditional guilty plea, expressly reserving the right to appeal the magistrate's denial of the motion to suppress.[2]

         Luna then filed a notice of appeal to the district court, arguing that the magistrate erred by not dismissing her case. In its appellate decision, the district court found that, because the State did not produce a qualified expert to explain the low test results, the State did not produce sufficient evidence to establish that the low results were unreliable. The district court also found that, because several of the results were under the 0.08 threshold, the State was prohibited from prosecuting Luna under the statute. The district court ...


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