The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed a defendant’s DUI conviction, rejecting his argument that he was merely sleeping in the car that his mother had driven.
At around midnight in July 2015, a woman was driving on Route 743. She noticed a car driving erratically in the right shoulder of the road. Ms. Kortwright followed the car for a while and then called 911 with the car’s license plate number. She stopped following the car when it turned into the Hollywood Casino.
A security supervisor at Hollywood Casino received a dispatch from the Pennsylvania State Police concerning a possibly intoxicated guest. Security footage showed the car turning into the casino and parking. The supervisor went to the parked car, where he observed the defendant sleeping in the driver’s seat. The engine was running, and the windshield wipers were activated. The supervisor knocked on the car window and attempted to rouse the defendant. He smelled of alcohol, his eyes were glassy, his speech was slurred, and he had trouble balancing. The supervisor called the police.
An officer arrived and noted that the car was registered to the same address as the address on the defendant’s license. He observed that the defendant had parked across parking lines, smelled strongly of alcohol, had red, bloodshot, and glassy eyes, and was unsteady. The defendant informed the officer that he had had two to three drinks before leaving a birthday party in Lancaster. The officer had the defendant perform a field sobriety test, which he had difficulty completing; the defendant also could not complete an Alco-Sensor test. The officer placed the defendant under arrest for suspicion of DUI. The defendant agreed to a blood draw, and his BAC was .110 percent.
At trail, the defendant testified in his defense that his mother drove him to the casino and went inside while he slept in the car. The defendant stated that he chose to sleep in the driver’s seat because it reclined.
The trial court convicted the defendant of DUI – general impairment, DUI – high rate of alcohol, and careless driving. He filed post-sentence motions, which were denied. The defendant appealed, raising a single issue: whether the trial court erred in denying his post-sentence motion when his conviction was so against the weight of the evidence as to shock one’s sense of justice because he did not engage in acts that constituted the offense of which he was convicted.
The defendant argued that he was not driving the vehicle where he was found sleeping, and no one who was called to testify for the Commonwealth testified that they saw him driving while under the influence. The defendant argued that his conviction was against the weight of the evidence, since although there was surveillance video of the car pulling into the casino, there was a 10-minute video blackout between that time and the supervisor’s arrival.
The appeals court rejected the defendant’s argument, concluding that the trial court properly found the evidence supported all of the elements of the statute. It found credible the woman’s testimony regarding his driving and rejected the defendant’s assertion that his mother had driven him to the casino. In reaching this conclusion, the trial court noted the short time between the car pulling into the casino and the security supervisor approaching the car, as well as the defendant’s failure to pass field sobriety or blood analysis tests. The defendant was the sole person in the car. Thus, the court concluded that he had driven the car, rather than his mother.
The appeals court found no abuse of discretion in this conclusion and accordingly affirmed.
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More Blog Posts:
Pennsylvania Appeals Court Vacates Illegally Enhanced DUI Sentence, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, February 3, 2017.
Pennsylvania Superior Court Finds Error in Defendant’s Conviction of Three Counts of DUI for Same Conduct, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, January 4, 2017.
Pennsylvania Appeals Court Holds Lower Court Was Not Required to Impose Mandatory Maximum Sentence on DUI Defendant, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2016.