Judge queried over handling of drunken driving case

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Four months after being censured for mishandling a driving while impaired case, a New Hanover County judge found a Wilmington lawyer innocent of drunken driving even though his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

District Judge Elton Tucker said last week he had trouble recalling the details of the November case in which Lanny Wilson was acquitted of DWI.

Wilson was stopped by a state trooper in late October for driving 67 mph in a 55 mph zone, according to court records.

Trooper W.B. Ezzell wrote on his report that Wilson had a “strong odor of alcohol.”

The trooper administered a breath test at the Wrightsville Beach Police Department, where Wilson twice blew a 0.17. In North Carolina, 0.08 is considered legally drunk.

On his affidavit, Ezzell noted that the breath test machine, the Intoxilyzer 5000, had been serviced Sept. 20.

But in court Nov. 23, Tucker threw the breath test results out because the trooper could not attest to firsthand knowledge that the machine had been serviced.

But Tucker said the case shouldn’t be considered extraordinary.

“Very often, cases aren’t proven in court, but that’s why we have courts, because officers aren’t perfect,” he said.

Ezzell said he also had video of the stop to prove his case, but only about 30 seconds of the 12- to 15-minute tape were allowed into evidence.

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