In 2004, William Nichols Jr. of Ocala, Florida, was charged with 2 counts each of DUI-manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. He lost control of his truck and crashed into a Tempo being driven by Holly Cummings. Holly's mother, Nancy, was a passenger in the car. Both were killed in the crash.
Jury selection and opening statements in his trial were conducted last week.
Nichols' blood alcohol content was found to be 0.103 and 0.104, two-and one-half hours after the crash. The legal limit is 0.08. "The defense is not disputing the alcohol results at trial. Instead, they plan to offer a medical explanation about the high alcohol content. The defense says Nichols may have had a gastroesophageal condition which caused the alcohol to sit in his stomach and not metabolize."
The 7-person defense team, led by William DeCarlis, will argue that Nichols suffers from gastroparesis; slow gastric emptying caused him to have alcohol in his system more than 6 hours after he'd consumed the alcohol.
If Nichols had been charged based on a Breathalyzer™ test, it's reasonable that the BrAC was influenced by alcohol remaining undigested in his stomach. Diffusion rates, the rate at which liquid is absorbed into the blood through the stomach membrane wall, are usually slower in people with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis creates reflux, which might increase the alcohol eliminated in Nichols' breath.
But, Nichols was not arrested at the scene or even administered a Breathalyzer. He was picked up later, after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement had the BAC results from samples of Nichols' blood. The specimen was collected more than 2 hours after the accident (over 8 hours since he'd had his last drink).
It is estimated that from 0.5% - 2% of ingested alcohol is not metabolized and enters the bloodstream through diffusion. "Alcohol is removed from the bloodstream by a combination of metabolism, excretion, and evaporation." Alcohol is slow to metabolize. Ninety to 98% of alcohol is metabolized (removed from the blood) by the liver.
- How does his claim that the alcohol was retained in his stomach because of gastroparesis account for alcohol being found in his blood?
- Does it make a difference how that level of alcohol got into his blood (i.e., via diffusion or normal digestion)?
- Is he claiming that he's not responsible for his impairment, but his disease is?
- Is it OK to drive with BAC over the legal limit, because you have a disease? Alcoholism is also a disease, but is it a defense against DUI charges?
Nichols faces up to 15 years in prison on each charge, if convicted.
Tags: [Billy Nichols] [Ocala] [William DeCarlis]
[Gastroparesis] [DUI] [Breathalyzer]
[Alcohol - Digestion & Metabolism]