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New Evidence Exonerates Oregon School Bus Driver Arrested for Intoxicated Driving

An Oregon school bus driver who was arrested last month after driving off the road with students on board will not be prosecuted for driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), because the district attorney could not prove he was impaired or reckless.

As previously reported, Jonathan Gates, a 20-year-old driver for Mid Columbia Bus Company, briefly drove a Forest Grove School District bus off the road before quickly correcting the vehicle’s path on Nov. 13. There were 10 students on board between the ages of 10 and 16, along with an aide at the time Gates reportedly lost control of the vehicle. No injuries were reported.

The Washington County Sherriff’s Office arrested Gates and charged him with driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII), reckless driving and multiple counts of reckless endangerment.

However, Matt Wise, a deputy district attorney with the Washington County District Attorney’s Office, said Wednesday in a written statement that Gate will not be prosecuted, because the state can neither prove he was impaired nor that his actions rose to a criminally reckless level.

Interior video of the crash that was released by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office last month shows the school bus traveling off the road, with the students being propelled out of their seats. Students can be heard screaming, and Gates repeatedly apologizes.

Wise said that deputies at the scene noted Gate’s eyelids were droopy and were remaining closed longer than usual following the incident. Gates reportedly said that he was tired and had fallen asleep while driving.

According to the statement, Gates took prescribed doses of Strattera, Wellbutrin and Intuniv to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression. None of the medications are considered controlled substances.

Deputies administered Gates a field sobriety test, which included the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk and turn test, and the one-leg stand test.

The HGN test is usually the first test that is administered in Oregon when law enforcement officials suspect a DUI. The test checks for involuntary jerking of your eyes and is often tested using a flashlight. Wise stated that Gates showed no sign of impairment during the HGN test.

However, Gates demonstrated five of the eight indications of intoxication during the walk and turn test. It requires suspects to walk on a real or imaginary line, turn and walk back. Gates reportedly demonstrated two of four indicators during the one-leg stand that tests balance.


Related: Watch: Illinois School Bus Driver Arrested for Sipping Beer During Route
Related: Readers Report Average School Bus Driver Compensation Amid Ongoing Staffing Shortage
Related: EPA Awards New Grant to Retrofit, Replace 24 Oregon School Buses
Related: President-Elect for Oregon Association Focuses on Training Opportunities
Related: Watch: Oregon School Bus Driver Faces DUII Charges


Following the field tests, Gates submitted a 0.00 percent blood alcohol content sample. Law enforcement officials reported that he was administered the tests less than two hours after he was arrested. Wise concluded that Gates was not under the influence of a controlled substance.

Gates was also required to take a mandatory Oregon Department of Transportation controlled substance test of his urine three hours after the crash. Those results were also negative for any controlled substance.

Wise said the district attorney’s office was unable to prove any of the alleged crimes beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. Gates was also traveling 52 mph in a 55 mph zone.

“Because the state cannot prove that he was impaired or that his actions rose to a criminally reckless culpable state, the state will not be filing charges in this case,” Wise concluded.

Editor’s Note: School bus contractor Mid Columbia Bus Company had not responded to messages seeking comment as of this report. 

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