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Case dropped against teacher accused of intoxication

By Emiley Morgan | Posted - Oct 28th, 2011 @ 9:53am

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PLEASANT GROVE — The case against a special needs preschool teacher accused of being intoxicated in class has been dropped.

A motion and order of dismissal in the case of Kaylee Hoffman, 23, was filed in Pleasant Grove Justice Court Wednesday. The judge signed the order on Thursday, dismissing the charge with prejudice, meaning she can't be charged for the same incident again.

In September, the first-year Mount Mahogany Elementary School teacher was fired after she was pulled out of class and given a breathalyzer test, in which she reportedly blew a .043 — or half the legal blood-alcohol limit to drive in Utah.

Hoffman was issued a citation for public intoxication, a class B misdemeanor, and released. The police officer who arrested Hoffman, however, did not notice any visible signs of impairment such as slurred speech or trouble walking.

There are certain elements that I have to prove. The facts, especially with that affidavit from Joanna Meacham, didn't meet the charge.

–Tina Petersen, city attorney

According to an affidavit filed with the court by Joanna Meacham, the special ed preschool "master teacher" at Mount Mahogany Elementary School, Hoffman has always acted in "a professional manner at school, in the classroom, and with her students."

Meacham reported that she was in Hoffman's classroom throughout the day of the alleged incident and had spent time with her since a 4 a.m. walk in which Hoffman appeared awake, alert and focused on the activities of the school day.

"During my walk with Kaylee, I did not notice any signs of intoxication," Meacham states in the affidavit. "She spoke clearly and intelligently. I neither saw Kaylee sway or stumble nor did I smell any alcohol …"

She said she sat by Hoffman a number of times throughout the day and never smelled alcohol on Hoffman.

"Kaylee was very aware of what was going on and was following the lesson plan for the day," Meacham states, noting that Hoffman also worked on a difficult scheduling and organizing task. "Kaylee performed this organization perfectly."

Utah criminal code
"A person is guilty of intoxication if the person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any substance having the property of releasing toxic vapors, to a degree that the person may endanger the person or another, in a public place or in a private place where the person unreasonably disturbs other persons."

Meacham said the first time she realized there might be a problem was when the principal questioned her about whether she smelled alcohol in the classroom, as had been reported by one of Hoffman's classroom aides.

"(The aide) came to him and said she had smelled alcohol in Kaylee's drink at Kaylee's desk," the affidavit states.

Meacham assured the principal that Hoffman "was not acting drunk." But a short time later, police were at the school administering a Breathalyzer test.

"After the test, the officer stated that there wasn't anything he could see that showed that (Hoffman) was impaired in any way, and that there was nothing he could charge her with," Meacham states.

Pleasant Grove City Attorney Tina Petersen said the charge was dropped because the elements of public intoxication require evidence that someone is a danger to themselves or others or is causing a public disturbance.

"There are certain elements that, as a prosecutor, I have to prove," Petersen said. "And the facts — especially with that affidavit from Joanna Meacham — didn't meet the charge."      

Defense attorney Jason Ahlmann said it was the right decision.

"(The judge) agreed with us that the elements of a public intoxication charge were not there," he said. "They have to be doing things that either cause danger to themselves or another person. The officer can't just predicate they will do something in the future. ... There were things that came out when the story was originally published that were not correct."

Ahlmann declined to talk about what exactly did happen that day or whether Hoffman had had anything to drink at all. He said the important part was that the criteria for a public intoxication charge were not met.

He said the sad part is that his client's name had been damaged, and he hoped that her case being dropped would receive as much media attention as when she was arrested.

"The end result was the right result. It was unfortunate her name was kind of dragged through the mud prior to there being a resolution in the case. Hopefully she can have her good name reestablished," he said. "This young woman has a bright future ahead of her."

Ahlmann said he could not comment on whether Hoffman now planned any counter legal action for wrongful termination.

Written by Pat Reavy and Emiley Morgan.

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