A man charged with drunken driving from the passenger's seat has asked a judge to throw out an incriminating statement he made to a state trooper.
Derek Randall Pittman, 26, of Carlisle, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.237 percent when he was arrested, said Michelle Sibert, a Cumberland County assistant district attorney who is prosecuting the case.
Trooper Jeffrey D'Alessandro said he pulled the car over early on the morning of Dec. 26 after watching it swerve from a turning lane into a travel lane on U.S. Route 11.
When D'Alessandro approached the vehicle, he said he found the driver, Lucas Enbacker, holding a large sandwich with both hands and he detected a strong odor of alcohol.
When the trooper asked why the car swerved, Pittman leaned across the front seat and said it was his fault, the trooper said. Pittman said he had briefly held the steering wheel while Enbacker was taking a bite from his sandwich, according to arrest records.
"He just leaned over and was apologizing to us," D'Alessandro said Wednesday.
Enbacker passed a preliminary breath test and was not charged with drunken driving, the trooper said.
Pittman's lawyer has asked a Cumberland County judge to suppress Pittman's statement and compel prosecutors to prove he was in control of the car. The motion asserts that the trooper did not see Pittman's hand on the wheel and that the prosecution's case is based solely on Pittman's statement.
"We've always maintained that the driver never took his hand off the steering wheel and was in control of the car," said the lawyer, Justin McShane.
Carlisle District Judge Jessica Brewbaker refused to sign the arrest warrant for Pittman, advising the trooper she did not think there were grounds to believe he was in control of the car, according to court records. But the county court agreed to let another judge sign it in February.
Sibert said both men acknowledged they had been drinking at a bar before the incident and that there is legal precedent to support charging Pittman with driving under the influence.
"At this point, it got past the (district judge). The trooper thought there was probable cause to arrest the passenger. And while it seems silly to some people, you have a highly intoxicated person at least steering the vehicle in ... an erratic manner," Sibert said.
A hearing on the suppression motion is scheduled for Aug. 22.