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Court Discusses Evidence Needed to Show Prima Facie Case of DUI General Impairment in Pennsylvania

In any Pennsylvania DUI case, the Commonwealth bears the burden of presenting a prima facie case at the preliminary hearing that the defendant committed the crime alleged. In other words, the Commonwealth must show evidence of each element of the crime for the case to proceed. If the Commonwealth is unable to meet this burden, the charges against the defendant will be dismissed. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently analyzed what evidence the Commonwealth must produce to present a prima facie case of DUI general impairment, in a case in which the charges against the defendant were dismissed.  If you were recently charged with a Pennsylvania DUI despite a lack of direct evidence or you committed a crime, you should speak with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney regarding your available defenses.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest and Subsequent Trial

Allegedly, in May 2016, the police observed the defendant driving with a suspended license at 3:00 am. She was allegedly driving 30 miles over the speed limit, failed to stop at red lights, and almost drove into a police vehicle. After she was stopped the arresting officer noticed that she had glassy, bloodshot, eyes and her speech was slurred. Additionally, the officer claimed that she smelled like alcohol and was unable to walk. She was subsequently arrested but refused to undergo chemical testing.

It is reported that the Commonwealth filed a criminal complaint against the defendant, alleging DUI – general impairment and driving with a suspended license. Further, the complaint alleged that the defendant refused chemical testing and that the Commonwealth would seek an enhanced sentence. A preliminary hearing was held, after which the court dismissed the refusal aspect of the DUI charge. The Commonwealth withdrew and refiled the charges with the refusal enhancement. A preliminary hearing was held, and the trial court found that the Commonwealth failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant knowingly refused to submit to chemical testing, and therefore, the Commonwealth could not proceed with the enhanced sentence. The Commonwealth appealed.
What Constitutes a Prima Facie Case of DUI – General Impairment

During a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth does not need to produce evidence sufficient to show the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the Commonwealth is merely required to produce evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case. To present a prima facie case the Commonwealth must produce evidence of each element of the crime which establishes probable cause. The evidence only has to be such that, if presented at trial, would warrant a case being heard by a jury.

The elements of the crime of DUI – general impairment are the operation of a vehicle by a person who is incapable of doing so safely due to the consumption of alcohol. A person who refuses to submit to chemical testing can face enhanced penalties if convicted of DUI – general impairment. The court noted that sentencing elements are not an element of the crime of DUI. Thus, the court found that the trial court erred in requesting that the Commonwealth present evidence of the refusal to submit to chemical testing at the preliminary hearing. Further, the court found that the Commonwealth submitted sufficient evidence to show the defendant’s refusal. Thus, the court reversed the trial court’s ruling.

Meet with a Proficient Pennsylvania DUI Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you are a Pennsylvania resident currently charged with a DUI it is prudent to meet with a proficient Pennsylvania DUI attorney regarding your case and what defenses you may be able to set forth.  Attorney Zachary B. Cooper is a seasoned DUI defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek a successful result under the facts of your case. You can reach Mr. Cooper at (215) 542-0800 to set up a consultation.