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Pennsylvania Court Explains Sufficiency of Evidence of DUI General Impairment

In Pennsylvania law, there are several statutory provisions under which a person can be charged with DUI. While some of the DUI provisions require the Commonwealth to prove a defendant’s blood alcohol level at the time of his or her arrest, a person can be convicted for DUI general impairment based on subjective evidence. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recently explained what constitutes sufficient evidence of DUI general impairment, in a case in which it affirmed the defendant’s conviction. If you are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI, you should speak with an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as you can to discuss the facts of your case and possible defenses to your charges.

Facts Surrounding the Defendant’s Arrest

Allegedly, a convenience store manager called the police after a patron whom she believed to be intoxicated got into a van and drove away. A police officer that was located nearby responded to the call within minutes. A traffic stop was initiated and the officer observed that the defendant had bloodshot, glassy eyes and an odor of alcohol. The defendant was swaying and unsteady on his feet and the officer believed he was intoxicated. The officer attempted to have the defendant perform field sobriety tests, but due to oncoming traffic, the tests could not be completed.

It is reported that the defendant was then placed under arrest. He consented to a blood draw which revealed a blood alcohol level of .156 and was positive for THC. The defendant was charged with DUI – general impairment, DUI high rate of alcohol and DUI controlled substances. Following a jury trial, he was convicted on all counts. He appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to prove DUI general impairment.

Sufficiency of Evidence 

On appeal, the defendant stated that he was not driving erratically prior to when he was stopped and the arresting officer admitted she did not observe him committing and traffic violations. The court noted that the statutory provision regarding DUI general impairment provides that a person may not drive a vehicle if he or she has consumed alcohol to the point where he or she is incapable of safely driving. To prove DUI general impairment, the Commonwealth must show that the defendant was driving or in control of a vehicle at the time when he or she was incapable of doing so in a safe manner due to the consumption of alcohol.

The court stated that evidence of erratic driving is not an essential element of DUI general impairment. Further, the court noted that the Commonwealth is not limited as to the evidence that may be offered to prove a person’s consumption of alcohol has rendered him or her incapable of safe driving, but that it included evidence of an odor of alcohol, inability to perform field sobriety tests, and bloodshot eyes.  In the subject case, the court found that the evidence presented by the Commonwealth was sufficient to show that the defendant was incapable of driving safely at the time he was stopped. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

 Meet with an Experienced  Pennsylvania DUI Attorney

If you are charged with a Pennsylvania DUI, you should meet with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney to assist you in developing a defense. Attorney Zachary B. Cooper has the knowledge and experience needed to help you seek a successful outcome under the circumstances. You can reach Mr. Cooper at (215) 542-0800 to set up a meeting.

More Blog Posts:

Pennsylvania Court Affirms DUI Conviction Even Though the Defendant was not Driving at the Time of His Arrest, Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers Blog, December 12, 2018