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.
Falkner said the judge based his decision on information from the Registry of Motor Vehicles that was untrue and "relied almost exclusively on very old incidents."
Van Meter's previous drunken driving convictions were in 1990 out of Ayer District Court and in 1992 out of Quincy District Court.
On Sept. 26, 2010, Van Meter was arrested while sitting in her parked car, which was running, in the parking lot of a Route 110 business in Amesbury.
Police responded to the parking lot and asked Van Meter, who they claimed smelled of alcohol, to get out of the car so they could perform a field sobriety test, but she refused multiple times, according to court documents.
Van Meter eventually got out of the car when police told her she was under arrest, but fell over, the documents say. She then refused to get into the police cruiser, even placing her feet against the cruiser to prevent officers from putting her inside.
Police then Tasered Van Meter twice on her legs in order to get her in the cruiser.
During the trial, Van Meter testified that she experienced numerous physical ailments for two decades, including a broken neck from a car crash 22 years ago, surgery on her arm and a tumor on her leg bone that necessitated the removal of about 5 inches of her fibula.
Two years ago, Van Meter had a thyroid condition and facial nerve condition that caused her to gain a significant amount of weight. She started a specialized protein diet overseen by her chiropractor, causing her to lose 40 pounds in six months.
About the time she was arrested, she was embarking on a new stage of the diet that allowed her to eat fruit and toast.
Van Meter testified that on the day of the arrest, she had a couple of glasses of wine hours before and a sip of wine later on during a gathering with friends.
Van Meter's chiropractor testified that Van Meter's consumption of wine likely caused her to have a hypoglycemic reaction because of the diet and because she hadn't eaten anything for four hours.
No date has been set for the appeal.