While many DUI charges in Pennsylvania arise out of a breath or blood test indicating a BAC over the legal limit, such test results are not required. Instead, a person can be charged with a DUI offense if an officer believes that there is sufficient evidence of impairment due to the consumption of alcohol. Recently, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a ruling in which it discussed the evidence sufficient to convict a person of DUI general impairment, in a case in which the defendant appealed her conviction. If you are a Pennsylvania resident charged with a DUI crime, it is wise to meet with a capable Pennsylvania DUI defense attorney to assess your potential defenses.
The Defendant’s Arrest
It is reported that a police officer was dispatched to a highway due to a report of two drivers with flat tires. When he arrived, he spoke with the defendant, one of the drivers, and noticed that her eyes were red and bloodshot, and she smelled of alcohol. The tires on the right side of her vehicle were blown out, and there were large gashes on the sidewall. The officer noticed the defendant was unsteady and asked her if she had consumed alcohol. She denied drinking at first but ultimately admitted to consuming four shots of vodka.
Allegedly, the defendant was asked to submit to a breath test and refused. She performed several physical and mental acuity tests but failed to do what she was instructed. She was arrested and transported to the police station, where she refused to submit to a blood test. She was charged with numerous offenses, including DUI general impairment. She was convicted, after which she appealed.
Evidence of DUI General Impairment
The defendant argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to prove DUI general impairment. The court explained that to obtain a conviction under the general impairment statute, the Commonwealth must show that the defendant operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to the degree that rendered her unsafe to drive. To establish incapability of driving safely, the Commonwealth has to prove that the person’s normal physical and mental faculties, which are required to drive safely, were significantly impaired.
In this context, significant impairment means a reduced ability to exercise sound judgment or react reasonably to changing conditions or circumstances. Further, evidence suggesting that a defendant was not in control of herself, like the failure to pass field sobriety tests, can be used to demonstrate that a person was under the influence of alcohol to the degree that left her unable to drive safely, regardless of the absence of evidence of unsafe driving.
In the subject case, the court found that the arresting officer had over two decades of experience and was well-versed in the signs of impairment. Further, his testimony regarding the defendant’s demeanor and her inability to complete the field sobriety tests properly demonstrated that she was impaired. Thus, her conviction was affirmed.
Speak to a Trusted Pennsylvania DUI Defense Attorney
A person can be convicted of a DUI crime even without a BAC level, and it is crucial for anyone charged with a DUI offense to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Zachary B. Cooper is a seasoned DUI defense attorney with ample experience defending people charged with driving under the influence, and he can advise you of your rights and possible defenses. You can contact Mr. Cooper at (215) 542-0800 or via the form online to set up a meeting.