A disabled Iraq war veteran recently acquitted of impaired driving can now focus on his dream of becoming a police officer, his attorney said.
While driving home about 11:15 p.m. Oct. 19, 2012, Troy Hamill took a prescribed dose of the sleep aid Ambien. He said he was a few minutes from home at the time.
"It takes a good hour to kick in, and it doesn't knock you out," he said of the drug.
But there was a dense fog that night, police noted in reports, and at the intersection of Rohlers Church and Mountain roads in Dover Township, Hamill's pickup truck went off the road and rolled.
It was his second crash in two months. He'd lost control of his motorcycle two months prior in Fairview Township and suffered broken ribs and a head injury. Hamill, 37, of Dover Township, said he re-broke several ribs during the second crash and also hit his head again.
"I hit my OnStar button," he said. "I never thought in a million years I was going to be arrested."
Confused: His level of confusion at the scene, which Hamill attributed to the head injury, drew the suspicion of police, who asked him to submit to a blood test. Police noted in charging documents that Hamill's speech was slurred and that he declined medical treatment.
Blood was drawn two hours later, showing a therapeutic level of Ambien in his system and no alcohol, according to defense attorney Jay Whittle. If the test could have been given immediately, the Ambien level likely would have been "minuscule," the attorney said.
Hamill was charged with DUI and driving at an unsafe speed.
On Friday, at the close of a two-day trial, jurors took a little less than three hours to acquit Hamill of DUI, his attorney said.
Juries don't decide guilt on summary offenses such as driving at an unsafe speed, Whittle said, and presiding Common Pleas Judge Thomas H. Kelley VI found Hamill guilty of that offense.
'Terrifying': "Troy Hamill has taken Ambien on a daily basis for three years and knows the effects on his body and when he can take it. He's very familiar with the medication," Whittle said. "In the overall scheme of DUIs, where does this stop? ... If you're involved in a minor or serious accident and some amount of prescribed medicine is in your blood, the (district attorney's office) can prosecute you for DUI.
"And that's terrifying," Whittle said.
In an email, chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker said there was enough evidence to convict Hamill.
"Any time we have sufficient evidence under the law to support a verdict of guilty, our office will prosecute," he said. "We had sufficient evidence in this case to support a conviction, had one occurred. We would be derelict in our duties if we failed to do so."
Hamill is "ecstatic" about the verdict and is finishing his schooling to become a police officer, according to Whittle.
"This case was holding him up," Whittle said.
Combat veteran: Hamill enlisted in the Army in 1994 and saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, he said.
In 2004, he was sent to Tikrit, Iraq, where he was a .50-caliber gunner. He was injured there during a mortar attack, but was sent back to the front after treatment, he said. He received an honorable medical discharge in 2012.
Hamill said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Iraq.
"I put my life on the line multiple times for this country," he said, adding he was willing to fight to prove his innocence.
"You can't really pick your battles, but you can choose where you stand," Hamill said. "It's a huge principle for me."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com.