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Court Explains Evidence of General Impairment in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

In many cases in which a person is charged with DUI offenses in Pennsylvania, the prosecution will use evidence of the person’s BAC to establish their guilt. A BAC level over the legal limit is not needed to convict someone of a DUI crime, though; instead, they can be found guilty if the prosecution sets forth evidence of their general impairment. Recently, a Pennsylvania court discussed what constitutes adequate proof of general impairment in a case in which the defendant appealed his DUI conviction. If you are faced with DUI charges, it is smart to talk to a Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to determine what defenses you may be able to assert.

The Defendant’s Arrest and Charges

It is alleged that a police officer began to follow the defendant’s vehicle after the defendant made an illegal left turn. The officer saw the defendant drive over the fog line and veer to the right side of the road multiple times; as such, he pulled the defendant over. When the officer spoke with the defendant, he noticed that his eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and his speech was slurred.

It is reported that the defendant submitted to field sobriety tests but refused to submit to blood or breath tests. The defendant was charged with DUI general impairment, and following a non-jury trial, he was convicted. He appealed, arguing that the prosecution lacked sufficient evidence to establish his guilt.

Evidence of General Impairment in Pennsylvania DUI Cases

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that the elements the prosecution must establish to convict a defendant of DUI general impairment are that the defendant operated a motor vehicle and that, while doing so, he was under the influence of alcohol to a degree that rendered him incapable of driving safely.

In order to establish the second element, the prosecution must prove that the alcohol significantly impaired the normal physical and mental faculties needed to drive in a safe manner. The court explained that significant impairment of the faculties needed to drive safely is an enfeeblement or diminishment of the ability to exercise judgment, react appropriately to changing conditions or circumstances, or to deliberate. The prosecution can establish substantial impairment by producing evidence regarding the defendant’s driving, demeanor, and performance on field sobriety tests.

In the subject case, the court found that the arresting officer’s testimony and dashcam footage from his vehicle adequately demonstrated the defendant’s impairment. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Confer with a Trusted Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

Under Pennsylvania law, people can be convicted of DUI offenses absent proof of their BAC level, and it is important for anyone charged with a DUI crime to understand what evidence may be used against them at trial. If you are accused of committing a DUI offense, it is smart to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.  Zachary B. Cooper is a trusted Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer with ample experience helping people protect their rights in DUI cases, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Cooper through the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a conference.