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Pennsylvania Court Discusses Establishing Guilt for DUI General Impairment Crimes

Many people know that they can be charged with DUI offenses in Pennsylvania for driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. They may not know, however, that they can also be convicted of DUI for operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol to the point of impairment, regardless of their blood alcohol level. Establishing guilt for general impairment DUI crimes usually requires the prosecution to rely on circumstantial evidence. In a recent Pennsylvania opinion, the court looked at what constitutes sufficient proof of general impairment. If you are accused of committing a DUI offense, it is in your best interest to talk to a Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer at your earliest convenience.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that revealed that in an officer responded to a two-vehicle accident. At the scene, she observed the defendant standing outside a damaged silver vehicle with a broken rear passenger taillight and missing pieces of the taillight scattered on the street. The officer observed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes and an unsteady gait and noted the smell of alcohol on the defendant’s breath. The defendant admitted to drinking that night and trying to pull onto the street from a parked position when the other driver collided with her vehicle.

Allegedly, the defendant submitted to field sobriety tests, which she failed. She consented to a blood test, which indicated a BAC of .161%, more than twice the legal limit of .08%. Based on this evidence, she was charged with DUI general impairment. She was convicted, after which she appealed.

Establishing Guilt for DUI General Impairment Crimes

On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support her DUI conviction, asserting that the Commonwealth failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she drove her vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The court rejected her argument, however, and upheld her conviction.

The defendant’s primary argument centered on the absence of direct evidence establishing that she drove the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. She claimed that the officer did not witness the accident, failed to specify when she received the accident report, and did not observe her operating the vehicle. Further, she suggested that she might have consumed alcohol only after the accident when she was no longer driving.

The court did not find the defendant’s arguments to be persuasive. It noted that while the officer did not directly observe the defendant driving, the circumstantial evidence, along with the defendant’s BAC, her admission of drinking before driving, and the presence of an open beer can, strongly supported the conclusion that she operated the vehicle while intoxicated. The court ruled that this, in conjunction with the defendant’s admission to having drunk more than one beer that night and her visible impairment, constituted sufficient evidence to establish her intoxication at the time of driving.

Meet with an Experienced Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney

Regardless of whether a person is charged with a per se or general impairment DUI offense, the prosecution must establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is advisable to talk to an attorney about your rights. Zachary B. Cooper is an experienced Pennsylvania DUI defense lawyer who is adept at helping people protect their interests in DUI cases, and if you hire him, he will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Cooper through the form online or at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.