The state can charge a person with DUI even without direct evidence of intoxication, as demonstrated by the case of a Texas man who was arrested and charged with DUI despite negative breath and blood tests. Prosecutors eventually dismissed all of the charges against him, but police continue to defend the decision to arrest and charge him, arguing that he could have been impaired by a substance that did not show up on the blood test. Pennsylvania law states that blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher constitutes “impairment,” but it also prohibits driving while under the influence of any amount of alcohol or a controlled substance that makes safe driving impossible. Proving impairment is generally easiest for the state with BAC evidence, but it is not necessarily required.
The arrest occurred on January 13, 2013 in Austin, Texas, when police pulled the man over for allegedly running a stop sign. He was taken into custody and given a breath test, which showed BAC of 0.00 percent. He admitted to having one drink earlier, but the test results suggest that no significant amount of alcohol was present in his bloodstream. He agreed to submit to a blood test, which police say screens for seven different drugs, including alcohol. The results were not available for several months, but also showed no measurable amount of any of the seven drugs.
The man was nevertheless charged with DUI, known in Texas as DWI. Police claimed that he failed a field sobriety test at the time of his arrest, with official reports stating that the arresting officer observed him swaying and needing to use an arm to support himself while standing on one leg. This behavior could have multiple other possible explanations besides intoxication, such as a condition affecting one’s equilibrium or simple fatigue, but prosecutors apparently felt this was enough to support a DUI case. More than a year after the arrest, they finally dismissed all charges.
Pennsylvania law defines DUI as driving with enough alcohol or another controlled substance in one’s system to prevent safe operation of a motor vehicle. This could include Schedule I controlled substances, Schedule II or III controlled substances without a valid prescription, or other drugs that cause impairment. A blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher is presumed to cause impairment in violation of the law, but BAC evidence is not required, necessarily, to prove the basic offense of DUI.
Without BAC evidence, police can offer testimony regarding their observations of a defendant’s behavior, such as performance on a field sobriety test, or evidence of prior alcohol or drug consumption. Evidence of BAC is subject to challenge by a defendant based on factors like the maintenance or calibration of a breath-testing device, and proper handling and possible contamination of a blood sample. A DUI case that does not rely on BAC evidence involves challenges to the police officers’ credibility, the type of methods used to test sobriety, and the accuracy of their recollections.
If you have been arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania , it is critical that you consult with a qualified DUI lawyer to determine the best way to handle your defense. Zachary B. Cooper, Attorney at Law, P.C. has dedicated 100% of his practice to DUI defense. We are available to help you 24/7. Please contact us online or at (215) 542-0800 for a free and confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Pennsylvania Courts Experiment with Different Approaches to DUI Cases, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, March 6, 2014
2013 Was a Tumultuous Year for Court Decisions in DUI Cases Regarding the Accuracy of Breathalyzer Results, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, February 12, 2014
Pennsylvania Driver Challenges Suspension of License for Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, January 26, 2014