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CALIFORNIAN ACQUITTED OF VEHICLE HOMICIDE, CONVICTED FOR DRUGS

A California man has been acquitted of charges resulting from the death of a woman who died in an accident while a passenger in his vehicle.

An eight-member jury found Michael Allen Sterger of Cypress, Calif., not guilty of automobile homicide. He was convicted, however, of two class B misdemeanors - possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.He is scheduled to be sentenced on the drug charges April 30 before 6th District Judge Don Tibbs.

Sterger, 30, was charged in the death of Michelle Eckroth, 26, of Huntington Beach, Calif. She died in July 1989 from injuries she received when she was ejected from the vehicle Sterger was driving. The car apparently hit an embankment along the Burr Trail in a remote area of eastern Garfield County.

A deputy sheriff told Sterger he was required to take a blood test, which showed his blood-alcohol level was within the legal limit. The test also indicated traces of THC, a marijuana byproduct, were present in the blood system.

Sterger's attorney, Ron Yengich, argued that his client was not properly informed that he had the right to refuse the blood test. Law enforcement officers admitted the error but said Sterger had two other opportunities to refuse during the arrest and booking procedure.

The Utah Court of Appeals ruled in March of 1991 that Sterger was not told he could refuse and was not under arrest, but it remanded the issue to the 6th District Court. Tibbs ruled that the blood could be admitted as evidence. The appeals court also ruled that drug evidence - a film canister containing suspected marijuana and paraphernalia - was legally obtained.