THERE was “no question of gardai applying a standard description” of intoxication in respect of suspected drunk drivers, three members of the force have told Limerick District Court.
Solicitor Chris Lynch said the relatively low reading in a sample of breath given by Andrew Carmody did not correspond with the description of him having a strong smell of alcohol on his breath, dilated eyes and slurred speech.
These, Mr Lynch said, were part of a “standard description” which was inevitably used by gardai in such cases and which Mr Lynch was concerned might sometimes be applied “retrospectively”.
Mr Carmody, 24, of Kilmoreen, Kildimo, denied driving while intoxicated at Island Road, Limerick city, on July 8 2011.
Garda Claire Burke said she had observed him swerving across the white dividing line. She noticed a strong smell of liquor; that he had slurred speech and dilated eyes and formed the opinion he had consumed alcohol. He was arrested and brought to Henry Street Garda Station where a breath sample read 37 micrograms of alcohol per 100 mililitres of breath - which the court heard was under the old limit and just above the new one.
Mr Lynch asked Garda Burke whether, given that her observations “indicated a severe degree of intoxication”, she was surprised at how low the reading was. Garda Burke said there was no “standard description” and they were her observations at the time.
Garda Shane Hayes, who took the breath sample, said there were “only so many ways” to adduce drunkenness and gardai looked out for signs that included breath and dilation of the pupils.
Garda Hayes said the accused had told him while in custody that he had consumed “four pints of six per cent cider, Devil’s Bit to be specific” and had been “honest enough” to say he believed he was over the limit.
Det Insp Seamus Nolan, in response to Mr Lynch asking why the option to conduct a roadside breath test had not been exercised, said this was usually done if there was an element of doubt. In this instance, there had been “no doubt” from Garda Burke’s observations, which the inspector stressed were contemporaneous rather than “retrospective”. There was “no standard formula” used by gardai in such cases.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly convicted Mr Carmody, disqualifying him from driving for a year and fining him €750.