The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a 2023 conviction of a Washington County man found guilty of Class C misdemeanor for OWI. The decision was handed down on May 23.

Charles R. Heath was found guilty of operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least 0.08 but less than 0.15 in a jury trial last year. He was acquitted on a Class A misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated. Heath was sentenced to 60 days in the Washington County Detention Center with 40 days suspended and 350 days of probation.

“The Court of Appeals decision was what we expected, based on the facts of the case and the parameters of the law,” said Prosecutor Tara Coats Hunt. “Operating while intoxicated is a serious crime and endangers our community. I am pleased that the Court upheld Mr. Heath’s conviction.”

Heath appealed his conviction on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction, specifically that the evidence did not prove that his BAC was at least 0.08 at the time he operated his truck. 

On May 17, 2023, Heath drank beer and homemade moonshine before driving to the Dollar General Store to buy a box fan. On the way home, he drove into a grassy area near the Little League ballfields, hitting a picnic table. A coach saw him and approached to see what was happening. Heath told the man to mind his own business and drove off. Police located him shortly after 8 p.m. at his home. After consenting to a breath test, one was administered at 9:15 p.m.

To his point, Heath argued that the alcohol testing took place around two hours after he was seen driving, which he said is too long. Heath was at his home for approximately a half hour after the ballpark incident and said it is reasonable to infer that he consumed the alcohol that led to his 0.97 BAC during that time period.

However, in its opinion, the Court noted that a chemical test must be administered within three hours after a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe the person committed an offense.

The opinion states, “Heath now asks us to reweigh the evidence, which we will not do. There is sufficient evidence to support Heath’s conviction for Class C misdemeanor operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least 0.08 but less than 0.15.”