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Court Affirms Pennsylvania DUI Conviction Based on Circumstantial Evidence

Many people who are stopped for suspicion of DUI are reluctant to submit to a blood test and believe that if the Commonwealth does not obtain their blood alcohol level, the prosecution will not be able to obtain a conviction. As illustrated in a recent Pennsylvania DUI case, though, such a belief is inaccurate, and a person can be convicted of DUI based on circumstantial evidence alone. If you are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI crime, it is important to understand your rights, and you should meet with a skilled Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to determine what defenses you may be able to set forth at trial.

The Defendant’s Stop and Arrest

It is alleged that the arresting officer observed the defendant’s car in the corner of a bar parking lot with its hood up. The officer took note of the car because the bar was closed and no one else was in the lot. He then observed the defendant drive the car onto a nearby roadway and proceed to drive erratically. After the defendant almost veered off the road, the officer activated his sirens and stopped him.

Reportedly, the officer noticed that the defendant’s speech was slurred, and his eyes were glassy and bloodshot and that he smelled of alcohol. The defendant admitted to consuming three beers over a six-hour period. He denied that he was intoxicated, however. The officer requested that the defendant submitted to field sobriety testing, but he refused. He was then transported to the police station, where he refused to submit to a blood test. He was then charged with and convicted of driving under the influence – general impairment. Following his conviction, he appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict.

Proving DUI Via Circumstantial Evidence

Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the defendant’s conviction. The court noted that to show that a person is incapable of driving safely due to the consumption of alcohol, the prosecution must show that the alcohol significantly impaired the physical and mental abilities needed to operate a vehicle in a safe manner. The focus in a case involving DUI – general impairment is not on the defendant’s blood-alcohol level but on the impaired ability to drive.

The impairment required to obtain a conviction must rise to the level of a decreased or lost ability to exercise judgment or to react in a reasonable manner to changing conditions and circumstances. Evidence that the Commonwealth may introduce to show substantial impairment includes the defendant’s actions and behavior, demeanor toward the arresting officer, physical appearance, and visible signs of intoxication. In the subject case, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant could not drive safely due to his substantial impairment. Thus, his conviction was upheld.

Speak to a Trusted Pennsylvania Attorney

If you are accused of a DUI offense in Pennsylvania, it is prudent to speak with an attorney to assess what evidence the prosecution may use against you at trial. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney who can assist you in seeking a favorable result by developing compelling arguments on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Cooper to set up a meeting by calling (215) 542-0800 or accessing our form online.