Prosecutors fight case dismissal

State: Missing evidence in drunken-driving charge not needed for conviction

GREENFIELD — Prosecutors say they don’t need the blood sample taken from a Greenfield man they’ve accused of drunken driving — evidence that was disposed of years before they filed a case against him.

Martin Smith, 48, 3303 W. U.S. 40, is fighting the case recently filed against him — a single Class C felony count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury from an accident dating back to August 2012.

His attorneys said prosecutors violated his constitutional rights when they filed charges after key evidence — a blood sample that reportedly shows Smith had a blood-alcohol content of .25 percent at the time of wreck — was destroyed.

But prosecutors have responded to the filing and maintain they don’t need that evidence to convict him, according to court documents.

They filed the case against Smith in March, five years after the crash he allegedly caused but still within the state’s statute of limitations for such a charge, according to the prosecutor’s response to the court. And they had no obligation to preserve evidence that is only “potentially useful” to a defendant, said Deputy Prosecutor John Keiffner in a written response to Smith’s motion to dismiss.

Failing to preserve evidence doesn’t violate a person’s rights unless the person can prove investigators used poor judgement or were negligent in their handling or disposing of it, Keiffner writes.

Keiffner admits the blood sample taken from Smith after the 2012 crash has since been disposed of by the Indiana Department of Toxicology. Records show, however, the results of a chemical test of the blood sample were returned to local police years ago.

The results of the test state Smith was driving with a blood-alcohol content nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08 percent when on Aug. 8, 2012, he ran a stop sign while driving south on County Road 300W and collided with a passenger car that was headed eastbound on State Road 234, according to charging documents.

Keiffner, citing state law, said the blood sample is considered only potentially useful to a defendant trying to prove their innocence.

Smith “has not and cannot demonstrate bad faith by any party involved with the sample of blood drawn from the defendant in this case,” he added.

Smith’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss earlier this month.

Indianapolis attorney Russell Cate, one of lawyers representing Smith, called the gap in time between the crash and the case filing “a deliberate delay that works to the advantage” of prosecutors, according to court documents.

Memories of witnesses will have faded in the years that have passed, and Smith should have been given a chance to perform a separate test of the blood sample that was taken from him, Cate wrote to the court.

Coupled together, these factors make it impossible to mount a proper defense, Cate said.

Prosecutors say the paperwork against Smith got lost in their office.

Sheriff’s deputies filed charging documents with the prosecutor’s office in 2012, a few days after the accident, but the document was misplaced and never filed with the clerk, officials said. Prosecutors uncovered the paperwork and brought criminal charges against Smith earlier this year.

Smith was set to appear in Hancock County Superior Court 1 on Oct. 16 to argue of the case’s dismissal, but the hearing the abruptly canceled. Online court records show it has not yet been rescheduled.

The Class C felony count Smith faces carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.