Defense motion struck down in DUI homicide

LEWISTOWN – A motion to suppress statements given to a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper and EMT by a man charged with vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol was struck down by the court recently.

The defense attorney representing Carl D. Briggs filed the motion to suppress the statements his client gave following the fatal accident on Oct. 8, 2011, along state Route 22 near Jacks Mountain Road. Briggs was driving a 1998 Mercury Mountaineer and at about 4:30 p.m. hit a motorcycle driven by 64-year-old Bruce E. Kauffman nearly head on, police said. Kauffman and his wife, 63-year-old Judy K. Kauffman, both died at the scene of the accident.

Police spoke with a witness at the scene of the accident that claimed Briggs was attempting to pass their vehicle on the left side, colliding with the motorcycle moments later. The witness tried to slow down so Briggs could get out of the motorcycle’s lane of travel, court documents indicate.

Defense attorney Joseph Amendola argued in the suppression motion his client had not been read his Miranda rights prior to speaking with Trooper Stephen Griffith at the scene of the accident.

The court ruled Briggs was not in custody when he spoke to Griffith while sitting in the back of an ambulance, thus Miranda did not apply and his statements are admissible as evidence.

The court further stated in the ruling that Griffith was asking routine questions to investigate what happened at the scene of the accident and Briggs was not restrained in anyway.

During a hearing on Jan. 3, Giffith and EMT Nick S. Price testified Briggs smelled of alcohol and admitted he had been drinking prior to the accident.

According to court documents, Briggs’ blood test came back with a blood alcohol content of .077, which is not above the legal limit. However, an expert for the Commonwealth indicated Briggs’ BAC at the time of the accident was between .08 and .1084, which is above the legal limit.

Price testified at the Jan. 3 hearing he was directed by others at the scene of the accident to Briggs, who identified himself as one of the people involved in the accident.

“No obvious defects, no injuries that I could see … I did smell an odor of alcohol,” Price said. “He did say he had a couple of beers, but wasn’t drunk.”

Price said Briggs told him he was diabetic and felt as if his blood sugar may be dropping, and as a result Briggs was given an “oral glucose” dose in an attempt to get his blood sugar up to a normal level.

Price said he gave Briggs two doses of oral glucose and was having a normal conversation with him regarding the accident.

Price testified he advised Briggs he needed to go to the hospital for an examination, and eventually he agreed.

“At that time he slumped over and became unresponsive … he came in and out of consciousness,” Price said.

In addition, Price testified Briggs’ mood changed throughout the trip to the hospital, fluctuating from “cool, calm and collected” to “agitated” and “emotionally distraught,” which he described as being consistent with a diabetic episode.

Griffith also took the stand at the Jan. 3 hearing and testified Briggs smelled of alcohol, had blood-shot eyes and his speech was slowed.

Griffith said Briggs stated he had been drinking at a friends house and was on his way home.

Griffith testified he asked Briggs if he would submit to a blood alcohol test, to which Briggs agreed.

Other motions attached to Amendola’s petition which were not addressed at the Jan. 3 hearing and may have to be revisited at a future hearing, including a motion to suppress chemical and blood test results.

According to court documents, Amendola sites a number of issues with the blood tests including a potential breach in maintaining the chain of custody of the defendant’s blood sample, which may have been mixed up with someone else’s blood test or contaminated at some stage in the process.

Briggs remains free on $150,000 bail. A trial date has not been set.