In out-of-state court recently ruled that use of circumstantial evidence, including observations of an arresting officer, was permissible in proving the driver’s blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit. Apparently the officer concluded the driver in this case was intoxicated based upon observations of her eyes, the supposedly strong odor of alcohol, and difficulties she had in completing field sobriety tests.
Tests measured her blood-alcohol level at .08 approximately an hour after officers originally pulled her over. Three minutes later, test results demonstrated her blood-alcohol level purportedly had risen to .09. Still later it measured .095.
An expert witness at the trial questioned the validity of tests showing a rising blood-alcohol level. In any event, questions arose regarding the conclusiveness of such tests. The court agreed that the opinions of the expert could not be rejected out-of-hand. However, there was also concern that such a ruling potentially provides greater weight to circumstantial evidence used in bringing a conviction.
The driver’s attorney expressed concern that officers would consistently claim the odor of the alcohol was sufficiently strong. The observations of arresting officers are often quite subjective when it comes to such matters during an arrest. There are also understandable concerns that circumstantial evidence will play too great of role when using it to convict an individual of a DUI.
The standard of proof in DUI criminal matters is demonstrating a matter beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal and DWI/DUI defense attorneys fight to make certain this standard of proof remains intact when defending individuals charged with a DUI.
Source: San Clemente Patch, “Officer’s Observations Can Be Used to Prove DUI, Supreme Court Rules in OC Case,” Paige Austin, April 7, 2015