Truckie runs into problems

JASON WHITE had four teeth pulled and dental gauze inserted in his gums, but was then caught drink-driving – just tipping into the low-range level with a reading of 0.06.

White, 37, a truck driver from Alstonville, blamed the dental gauze plugging the gaps of the missing pearlers for absorbing the alcohol and boosting his reading above 0.05.

At the time of the offence on May 22, 2008, he told police manning the RBT – where his first reading was higher than the subsequent breath analysis done at Lismore police station – he was surprised the reading was over the legal limit because he only drank four schooners of beer over a three-hour period.

Last September, White lost his case after pleading not guilty in the Lismore Local Court, and was fined $700 and disqualified from driving for eight months. A stay was put on the conviction until White’s appeal was heard this week before Judge James Black in the Lismore District Court.

Defence lawyer James Fuggle argued the crux of the case was whether there was doubt on the accuracy of the blood/alcohol reading his client returned because the dental gauze had been in his mouth while drinking.

The defence case maintained the gauze soaked up some of the alcohol and it was this that pushed White’s reading over the legal limit.

“We say there is a distinct possibility, enough to cast doubt on the reading, that the alcohol was trapped in the dental gauze,” Mr Fuggle said.

Mr Fuggle said there was no dispute his client blew 0.85 when stopped at an RBT station, but then returned a reading of 0.06 when given a breath analysis at the police station.

The opinions of two experts were sought by the defence and police that took into account White’s weight, 188cm height and the amount of alcohol he drank prior to the offence.

Professor Paul Weatherby, a pharmacist who works with the School of Health and Human Sciences at Southern Cross University, stated in his report, in part, that if White’s given amount of alcohol consumed was correct then on his calculations the gauze might have contributed to an erroneous reading.

Dr Judith Pearl, a clinical forensic pharmacologist with NSW Police, stated in her report that even if alcohol had been absorbed into the gauze, with natural saliva flow and evaporation the alcohol would dissipate from the gauze.

She found it ‘highly improbable’ there would still be alcohol in the gauze at the time of his breath testing – 45 minutes after his last drink.

“I wouldn’t accept that gauze in the mouth caused the machine to malfunction,” she stated in her report.

After considering both reports, Judge Black said he had reached the same conclusion as Magistrate Nicholas Reimer.

He found the gauze did not contribute to the reading and upheld the magistrate’s conviction, with the eight-month disqualification to begin immediately.

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