Mont. high court orders new hearing on date rape drug defense case

MISSOULA, Mont. (KPAX TV) - The Montana Supreme Court has ordered another hearing in the case of a Missoula woman who was charged with drunk driving after she says she'd been given a "date rape" drug.

Leigh Paffhausen was charged with impaired driving after being stopped by a Missoula Police officer two years ago. Paffhausen refused a breath test in the field and was arrested for driving under the influence.

Paffhausen tried to argue that she'd been given a "date rape" drug and wanted to use "involuntary intoxication" as her defense, saying she was drugged without her knowledge.

However, the city attorney's office argued state law only allows the "involuntary intoxication" argument when a person's mental state is in question. The Missoula Municipal Court agreed, and she also lost an appeal to Missoula District Court.

However, in a 4-3 ruling this past week, the Supreme Court decided Paffhausen should have been allowed to make her defense, ordering District Court to remand the case back to Municipal Court for another hearing.

The justices also faulted the lower court for allowing Missoula Police to testify as "expert witnesses" on the effects of any "date rape" drugs Paffhausen may have been given, citing their lack of specific training.

However, Justice Jim Rice, who wrote the dissenting opinion, questioned how the "voluntary act" legal issue was being applied in the case. He argued Paffhausen's treatment hadn't been unduly "harsh" and said her impairment still represented a safety risk for the community.

"I further believe that this decision will have the effect of subverting the Legislature's clear intention that DUI is to be an absolute liability offense," wrote Rice.
 


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