DUI and Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial EvidenceIn criminal cases, a prosecutor must often rely on both direct and circumstantial evidence in trying a case. In some DUI cases, direct evidence may not be available and the prosecution must be able to show through circumstantial evidence that the defendant is guilty of committing a DUI offense. In defending a DUI case, it may be possible to attack a prosecutor’s reliance on circumstantial evidence, especially where the evidence is weak.

Use of Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Driving

In a DUI case, one of the elements that the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the defendant was driving a motor vehicle. The arresting officer or another witness will often observe the defendant’s driving conduct and would testify regarding this. In other cases, the defendant’s driving may have been recorded on the patrol vehicle’s dash cam recording. However, where there is no direct evidence of the defendant’s driving, the prosecution may need to introduce circumstantial evidence. This is often the case where it is alleged that the defendant was involved in a DUI collision but there were no witnesses who actually saw the defendant driving the car and the defendant does not admit to driving.

In collision cases, the prosecution may have to present circumstantial evidence, such as the placement of bruises on the defendant, the placement of the driver’s seat or damages to the vehicle to prove that the defendant was in the driver’s seat when a collision occurred. The People may present testimony from an accident reconstruction expert who can describe why the defendant was in fact driving. The defense cab present their own expert to show why the evidence was misinterpreted and why the defendant was not the driver of the vehicle. The People can also point to other facts, such as the absence of other drivers, to show that the defendant was, in fact, the driver of the vehicle.

Use of Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Impairment

The prosecution is also required to prove that at the time of driving, the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. Because there is usually no breath or blood test taken exactly at the time of driving, the People would show impairment or an excessive BAC through circumstantial evidence.

The prosecution may need to call a toxicology expert to testify regarding why a breath or blood test taken sometime after driving occurred is probative of the defendant’s BAC at the time of driving. The expert would describe retrograde extrapolation and how it is possible to calculate a defendant’s BAC at the time of driving based on evidence calculated minutes or even hours later. The defense can also present expert testimony rebutting the People’s expert in order to show why the defendant would not have had a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher while driving or why the People’s calculations are inaccurate.

Judge Considers Circumstantial Evidence of Impairment

The prosecution can also use other circumstantial evidence of impairment, such as the defendant’s driving conduct, the officer’s observations of the defendant’s physical condition and the defendant’s performance on field sobriety tests. The judge or jury may consider this evidence when determining whether or not a defendant was under the influence at the time of driving. The defense can counter this evidence and show that the defendant’s poor performance or objective symptoms of intoxication may have been caused by a health condition or other factors wholly unrelated to impaired driving.

If you have been arrested for a DUI offense, it is critical that you speak with a knowledgeable DUI lawyer as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Michael Kraut works with the area’s most respected experts and understands how to effectively attack the prosecution’s evidence in defending a DUI case.

For more information about DUI and circumstantial evidence, and to schedule your free consultation, Attorney Michael Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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