NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 23, 2012

Woman sues for license after DUI acquittal

AMESBURY — A Haverhill woman acquitted in December of fourth-offense drunken driving following her 2010 arrest in Amesbury is appealing in superior court to get her license back.

An attorney for Heidi Van Meter is appealing a district court judge's decision not to restore her license even though she was acquitted.

Van Meter was found not guilty by a jury of fourth-offense drunken driving after claiming she suffered a hypoglycemic reaction from drinking wine in the midst of a strict protein diet she was on.

Van Meter originally lost her license for life following her refusal to submit to a Breathalyzer because she had three previous convictions on her record.

But following her acquittal, she learned that one of those convictions was in fact a not-guilty finding. The Registry of Motor Vehicles' penalty guidelines for refusing a Breathalyzer test after two previous convictions is a five-year loss of license.

However, a judge does have the ability to restore a license if a defendant is acquitted.

But that didn't happen in Van Meter's case.

Newburyport District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik upheld the lifetime license suspension following Van Meter's acquittal because of what was thought to be her three previous convictions. Uhlarik later changed the suspension to five years after learning there were only two previous convictions.

Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex County district attorney's office, said attorneys argued against reinstating Van Meter's license at both hearings.

But Van Meter's lawyer, Benjamin Falkner, is arguing that Uhlarik's decision must be set aside and sent back to district court to restore his client's license.

"Judge Uhlarik's decision ... is based on substantial errors of law and fact, is not supported by substantial evidence, is arbitrary and capricious, constitutes an abuse of discretion, and/or is otherwise not in accordance with the law," Falkner said.

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