Three Hidden Defenses In Port St. Lucie DUI Cases
More often than not, intoxication is basically the only issue in a driving under the influence case. Prosecutors must establish intoxication beyond a reasonable doubt. They either use circumstantial evidence from the field sobriety tests or direct evidence from chemical tests to meet this burden.
However, to obtain convictions under the DUI law, prosecutors must do more than establish intoxication. There are some other elements as well. The same burden of proof applies in each one. Sometimes, there is simply not enough evidence to support a conviction. Other times, an effective legal defense may be available.
Most basic DUIs involve either traffic stops or police checkpoints. In both these cases, the police officer sees the defendant driving the vehicle and can testify to that fact in court.
The same thing is not true in most DUI collision cases. By the time first responders arrive, most defendants have exited their vehicles. So, no officer can testify that the defendant was behind the wheel. Moreover, the officer certainly cannot testify that the defendant was “driving” the vehicle.
Therefore, prosecutors need additional evidence on this point. Such evidence usually comes in one of the following forms:
- Independent Witness: There is usually at least several months between the incident and the trial. By that time, many witnesses have relocated beyond the court’s limited subpoena range. So, at the most critical moment, important testimony is often unavailable.
- Defendant’s Statements: If the defendant admitted to driving, it’s very difficult to exclude this statement. However, it is possible to challenge the statement’s accuracy. The crux of a DUI case is that the defendant was physically and mentally incapable of operating a motor vehicle. If the defendant lacked this mental competency, why should the jury believe any statements?
If the evidence is particularly weak, many St. Lucie County prosecutors may be willing to reduce the charges to reckless driving. This misdemeanor does not have nearly as many collateral consequences as a DUI.
“Operating” a Vehicle
Driving and operating are two different concepts. The car does not have to be in motion for the defendant to “operate” it. Prosecutors need only establish that the car was in good working order and that the defendant had control over the vehicle.
Evidence on the first point may be absent altogether. In parked car DUIs, many officers do not bother checking things like the amount of gas in the tank. The second point can be problematic as well, if there is no evidence that the defendant had the vehicle’s ignition key.
A public place is basically any location that was created for a public purpose and funded by public money. Driveways do not pass muster under either of these tests. Shopping center and other parking lots only satisfy one criterion (public purpose).
Some DUIs have venue issues, which is a similar problem. For example, an officer may begin following a DUI suspect in Martin County and pull the suspect over just over the St. Lucie County line. If the case is filed in Martin County, the field test evidence may be inadmissible. If the case is filed in St. Lucie County, prosecutors may have problems establishing the “driving” portion of a DUI.
Team Up with Aggressive Lawyers
DUI cases are often difficult to prove. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.