Prosecutors' nearly eight-month quest to convict Carolina Panthers defensive end Jason Peter of drunken driving got a boost Thursday when a judge ordered the charge reinstated.
Superior Court Judge Claude S. Sitton ruled in favor of an appeal that Charlotte-Mecklenburg prosecutors filed after District Court Judge C. Jerome Leonard dismissed the case June 28.
Sitton ordered the case sent back to the lower court for a new trial. No date was immediately set.
The charge was dismissed in lower court when Leonard agreed with a defense argument that the case was tainted because a magistrate's order signed after Peter's arrest was improperly dated. Peter was arrested March 14, but the magistrate's order was dated March 24.
Sitton, however, said Thursday that the incorrect date "was not a fatal defect and that the charge should be and is remanded to District Court."
Defense attorney George Laughrun also argued that because evidence was introduced in the June trial, a second trial would violate Peter's right to protection against double jeopardy.
Once again, however, Sitton disagreed, saying the dismissal had nothing to do with the merits of the case, but rather was due to a typographical error.
Sitton said that while Peter is entitled to protection from double-jeopardy, "he was not tried upon the merits, and double jeopardy does not attach."
Peter, the Panthers' top selection in the 1998 NFL draft, attended Thursday's hearing, but sat silently at the defense table. Laughrun advised Peter against speaking with reporters afterward because the case is still active.
Peter was arrested shortly before 2:30 on a Sunday morning while driving south on Interstate 77 in Charlotte. In addition to speeding in his black 1999 Mercedes sedan, Peter flashed his left turn signal before changing to a right-hand lane, police said.
Peter was administered a breath test and registered a blood-alcohol content of .12 percent. A blood-alcohol reading of .08 or more is considered evidence of impaired driving in North Carolina.
Peter, who also was charged with speeding for driving 81 mph in a 55 zone at the time of his arrest, entered a guilty plea at his June trial to a reduced charge of driving 70 in a 55 zone. Leonard fined him $100 and ordered him to pay an additional $86 in court costs.
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