inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

Derry Rep Layon Pleads Guilty in DUI Case

Republican state Rep. Erica Layon said this week she regrets driving under the influence, for which she was arrested at her home in Derry on May 26. 

“I truly regret this lapse in judgment. I am following the court’s orders,” Layon said Tuesday.

Layon pleaded guilty last month to one count of driving under the influence and had her driver’s license revoked for the next nine months as part of the sentence. She is eligible to apply for early reinstatement under the plea for the first-time offense.

Layon was arrested at her home on the night of May 26 after police responded to reports of an erratic driver. The conversation with Derry police was captured on cruiser video which has since been uploaded to the Internet. In the video, Layon is seen still wearing her state representative’s name badge.

Layon appears to slur her words during the conversation with officers, and initially said she had one glass of wine at the end of the workday in Concord. She also mentioned early on that she had purchased a table to the banquet honoring Derry Police Chief Ed Garone.

Layon initially tried to tell officers that she has a borderline case of diabetes and was suffering from the effects of high blood sugar after attending an ice cream social at the State House. She also acknowledged having one glass of wine after the House session had ended for the day.

The Derry Fire Department soon sent an ambulance to check Layon’s blood glucose levels, which were at 120 mg. According to the video, the paramedic who took the reading told Layon that was a good level.

“You’re golden,” he said.

During the video, Layon explained to the officer the pressure she had been under that day. The Legislature voted down the proposed parental bill of rights she championed on May 26, and Layon appeared dejected by the defeat.

“It’s been a hell of a day. We got our asses kicked by people who think the state should be the parents, and not the parents,” Layon said.

Layon told the officer she had been receiving threats over the parental bill of rights. When the officer asked what the threat stated, she said it was “rainbow laser pew pew.”

After her blood sugar was deemed normal by paramedics, Layon was questioned about her slurred speech. At this point, she told the officer she had three glasses of wine that evening. When she refused the officer’s request to undergo field sobriety tests, she was placed under arrest.

When she was initially questioned, Layon suggested to police that the report about her driving her car erratically had been made by a neighbor with whom she had a feud over a tree. When she was told she was being placed under arrest, she revived her suspicions about the arrest.

“How much did Jim Morgan pay you guys?” Layon asked.

“I do not know who Jim Morgan is,” the officer responded.

As Layon was being handcuffed, she again mentioned Chief Garone and his upcoming banquet.

“Can I get my money back for Chief Garone’s table?” she asked.

Aside from the controversial parent’s bill of rights, which opponents claimed would out gay teens to their parents, Layon was a lightning rod for controversy last session. She sponsored a bill to revive a Cold War era anti-Communist loyalty oath for teachers which would ban them from advocating for socialism or communism in the classroom.

The bill would also ban teaching anything negative about the founding of the United States.

“No teacher shall advocate any doctrine or theory promoting a negative account or representation of the founding and history of the United States of America in New Hampshire public schools which does not include the worldwide context of now outdated and discouraged practices. Such prohibition includes but is not limited to teaching that the United States was founded on racism,” the now-defeated bill stated.

When asked by WMUR, Layon refused to say that the Three-Fifths Compromise was racist. The Three-Fifths Compromise from the 1787 Constitutional Convention states that every enslaved American would count as three-fifths of a person for taxation and representation purposes.

NH Supreme Court: Drunk Parking Not A Crime

Dianna Ruddman was sitting in her car in a church parking lot in Enfield, N.H. when she was busted for DUI in 2020. The engine was running but the car was not moving. So she took the case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

And she won.

The court reversed her guilty verdict, not because of what she was doing, but where she was.

“These facts are sufficient for us to determine that, as a matter of law, the church parking lot does not meet the definition of ‘way’ within paragraph I. See RSA 259:125, I.,” the majority wrote in their ruling released Wednesday.

“I’m thrilled about it to be quite frank,” said Ryan Russman, a defense attorney who specializes in DUI cases.

Ruddman was seen by a police officer removing a bottle of alcohol from the trunk of her car and then getting behind the driver’s seat with the engine running, according to court records. Ruddman told the office she planned to stay in the parking lot until she sobered up, but she would call for a ride if need be. Instead, she was arrested and the Department of Safety suspended her license for six months.

During a subsequent hearing before the Department of Safety in June 2020, Ruddman allowed that the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe she was intoxicated. However, she argued the officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that she was in control of a vehicle “upon the ways of this state,” as is stipulated in RSA 265-A:31, II(a). 

“She argued that the church parking lot where she was arrested is not a “way” within the meaning of (the law)” the ruling states.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Barbara Hantz Marconi writes the legislature may want to act to close the DUI loophole that allows drunk parking on private property.

“In light of the majority’s opinion, the legislature may wish to clarify its intent that the expanded definition of ‘way’ in RSA 259:125,” Marconi wrote.

Russman said he hears from clients all the time that they have been arrested for DUI even though they were not driving. He hopes the ruling means police will allow for people to do the sensible thing and pull over if they have had too much to drink, without risking getting arrested.

“The law punishes people when they’ve potentially made the decision when they should not be driving,” Russman said. 

Len Harden, another defense attorney who works with many DUI clients, said people can park on the side of the road in order to sober up, but they need to be in the passenger seat or back seat while they wait.

“If they’re in the driver’s seat, they’re (in trouble)” Harden said.

Under the law, an intoxicated person behind the wheel of a parked car that is on the side of a road or in a parking lot with public access can be charged with DUI, even if their intent is to sober up or wait for a ride.

Pat Sullivan, with the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association, said law officers are in a difficult position when they encounter an intoxicated person in those situations. If the officer leaves them be, the driver might get into an accident or suffer carbon monoxide poisoning from the car’s exhaust. 

Russman says he suspects the legislature will act to close the loophole, but he believes police need to have more options when dealing with possibly intoxicated drivers who are trying to do the right thing. Sullivan agreed, saying officers need to have the ability to use more discretion, he said.

“It’s one of those things, we’re all about public safety. It could be better to take that person into protective custody and release them to a sober individual if possible.