Court upholds man’s DUI conviction

Blackie claimed prosecution didn’t have evidence to support charge

The conviction of an Altoona man for driving under the influence has been upheld by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which rejected the defense argument that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence to support the charge.

George Bevan Blackie Jr., 55, was convicted after a trial by judge last August of DUI, as well as careless driving, following too closely and speeding.

Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan fined him $300 and placed him on probation for six months for a first offense DUI.

The judge fined Blackie $25 on each of the three traffic violations.

Blackie, through his attorney, Public Defender Russell Montgomery, appealed the judge’s findings to the Superior Court, but on Monday a three-judge panel of Judith F. Olson, Mary P. Murray and Kate Ford Elliott, rejected the defense argument.

Blackie, according to the Superior Court opinion, was involved in a two-vehicle accident at Dunnings Highway and Bedford Street in Greenfield Township.

The Aug. 24, 2016, incident occurred when Blackie’s vehicle hit the rear of a van that was stopped for a red light.

The van driver asked Blackie to call police, but he refused.

The van driver called officers to the scene and, while waiting, observed that Blackie exhibited slurred speech.

Freedom Township Assistant Police Chief Nathan Claycomb said that at the scene he smelled “a little bit of alcohol” and saw unopened alcoholic beverages in Blackie’s vehicle.

Greenfield Township officer Tyler Grigg also smelled alcohol from Blackie, contended Blackie was slow to retrieve his registration and insurance cards and said Blackie failed two sobriety tests: the walk and turn and one-leg stand.

Blackie told the officer that prior back surgery and a leg injury made it difficult for him to perform the tests.

It was also suggested Blackie take a 10-panel drug screen, which he initially agreed to do but refused once at the hospital.

The defense argued not enough evidence had been presented to convict Blackie.

While there was “some evidence” of alcohol intoxication, there was not evidence that the intoxication was caused by alcohol, stated the defense.

Blackie contended he had taken sleeping medication prior to the accident. The defense clarified he was not charged with driving under a combination of alcohol and drugs.

The Superior Court pointed out Blackie claimed he’d consumed only “half of a beer,” yet it outlined testimony from others at the scene that reported Blackie was “acting strangely” “smelling of alcohol,” “delaying his production of driver documentation,” “failing sobriety tests” and “refusing to submit to a blood test.”

These facts supported the Judge’s finding of impairment, according to the opinion, written by Murray.