Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Traffic death
suit accuses

The driver's breath test
should have been redone,
a lawyer says

By Debra Barayuga

Police mishandled the arrest of an allegedly drunken driver by releasing him after he blew a zero on an Intoxilyzer test, even after two police officers had earlier arrested him for suspicion of driving under the influence.

That is according to attorney Rick Fried, who represents the family of Tamara Tye, a University of Hawaii swimmer who was struck by the motorist in March while riding her bicycle back to her dorm.

The Honolulu Police Department declined comment on the allegations, since the investigation into the collision is ongoing and no charges have yet been filed against the driver.

Tye's family filed suit last week against the driver, Jeffrey Yoon, for consuming alcohol, getting behind the wheel of his car and operating his car negligently, striking her as she rode in the crosswalk on Beretania Street.

Fried said that the two officers who responded to the collision noted that there was a strong smell of alcohol in Yoon's car, his eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and he slurred when he spoke. Yoon also could not count backward from 30 and flunked other tests given to drivers suspected of being intoxicated.

And while he told the officers he had drunk a couple beers after work, he apparently is now denying he had anything to drink, Fried said.

Yoon allegedly agreed to submit to an Intoxilyzer and blood test, so he was taken to the police station to be processed, Fried said.

But when Yoon blew a zero on the breath test, which toxicologists say would have been "humanly impossible" given the signs of intoxication he exhibited earlier, police released him.

Alcohol leaves the system at a standard rate of .01 percent an hour, so they could have retested Yoon if the results did not seem right, Fried said.

"You just don't go from being significantly under the influence to where it would read zero."

Fried also questioned why police did not go ahead and do a blood test if Yoon in fact consented to it.

Whether Yoon was intoxicated is significant because it would affect the level of charges he faces, Fried said.

Normally, an individual who blows under the legal limit would be released without charges. If the person's blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, the individual is charged with driving under the influence and allowed to post bail.

In the past two years, Yoon has been arrested five times for speeding and another time for running a red light, Fried said.

Yoon did not return calls for comment.

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