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Ex-Congressman Sues DMV for Alcohol Test


SANTA ANA — Former Orange County Rep. Jerry M. Patterson has charged in a lawsuit that he was improperly tested for sobriety after his arrest on suspicion of drunk driving Dec. 15.

In his lawsuit, filed Wednesday against the Department of Motor Vehicles, Patterson said that the breath test was administered in an ineffective way by an improperly trained operator.

The lawsuit claims that Patterson drank three to four glasses of wine between noon and 2:20 a.m., 40 minutes before his arrest, and had not eaten that day, but that he was not drunk.

Patterson, a Democrat from Garden Grove who was defeated by current U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan in 1984, declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday. DMV officials could not be reached for comment.

Patterson, currently Dana Point's city attorney, was stopped in Newport Beach while driving his 1991 Volkswagen van westbound on Coast Highway. The arresting officer said Patterson was driving 85 m.p.h. in a 50-m.p.h. speed zone and that he failed to stop at a red light.

The arresting officer observed that Patterson "seemed unsteady on his feet" and that his breath exhibited "a moderate odor of an alcoholic beverage," the report states.

Police said that Patterson tested at 0.08--just high enough to be legally drunk under California law--when they administered a breath test at the police station. A blood test conducted 50 minutes later registered 0.07, which is below the legal limit.

Patterson said he may have appeared unsteady because he is fitted with an artificial leg.

Patterson said in the lawsuit that if his driver's license is restricted because of his arrest it would damage his employment as an attorney and will ultimately result in an "astronomical increase in his insurance premiums," if not cancellation of his coverage.

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