In criminal law, most cases settle with a guilty plea either to one or more of the charges, a reduced charge, or, less frequently, a criminal case may be dismissed by the prosecutor or the judge. However, sometimes driving while intoxicated (DUI) cases go to trial. In assessing whether or not to take a case to trial, the wishes of the accused take precedence. People charged in criminal cases actually have very little power to direct such things as how a lawyer should argue an issue, which issues a lawyer might challenge, and what will be included in a legal brief. However, when it comes to deciding whether or not to enter a guilty plea or take a case to trial, the defendant alone makes that decision.
Just because the defendant makes the decision doesn't mean they do it in a vacuum. An attorney can help the accused by reviewing the evidence in the case and having a discussion about the significance of one piece of evidence or another.
Understanding the Many Ways One May Be Guilty of a DUI
The DUI laws in the state of Georgia include a number of different types of conduct that may establish a person has committed a DUI. For example, the government must prove a person was driving or was in physical control of the car. Additionally, the government must establish the driver was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or inhalants to the extent that it was not safe for them to drive or that their blood alcohol concentration was 0.08 % or more. A lawyer must consider the many “or” variables and assess the evidence at hand to determine the benefits or drawbacks of a trial.
Evidence the Court or Jury Can Consider Regarding Driving or Physical Control
Because of the nature of the DUI statute, the fact finder, which is either a judge or a jury of your peers, must evaluate different types of evidence. First, we start with driving or in physical control. Evidence which establishes driving could include that the police officer saw the person driving the car. The squad car may have a video documenting the person was driving the car. Another citizen may have called and reported observing a single person driving a car who appears intoxicated. When someone actually sees another person driving, or there is a photo or video of a person driving, this is called direct evidence.
If the police come across an accident scene with someone in the driver's seat, that is circumstantial evidence that the person was driving. If the person is out of the car at an accident scene, but there is no one else around, that could be circumstantial evidence the person was driving.
When the issue is not driving but rather “physical control” of the vehicle, the evidence presented can also be direct or circumstantial. For example, if someone observes a person sitting in the driver's seat of the car, with it running, even if the car is in park, this is pretty good evidence that person was in physical control of the vehicle. However, if the person is leaning on the side of the car with the keys in their pocket and the driver's door open, this may be less strong evidence of physical control. When someone is in the bar with their car keys in their pocket, this is not evidence of physical control. Sitting in the car with the keys in the ignition and the car turned on is evidence of physical control. Somewhere between these two events can also be physical control. This is often a question for the jury.
Evidence the Court or Jury Can Consider Regarding Driving Less Safe
“Driving less safe” is a judgment call in many cases. Obviously, a person who is so under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or inhalants they can no longer stand is “less safe.” However, in many cases, the issue is less clear. Juries and judges can consider the driving behavior observed by witnesses including the police officer who stopped the car. They can consider symptoms of impairment. This could include bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech, the odor of alcohol or marijuana emanating from the car, and other behaviors that suggest intoxication.
Judges and juries may also consider evidence of how someone performed on their field sobriety tests, also sometimes referred to as roadside tests. If a person has difficulty completing these tests, the fact finder may consider that.
Judges and juries may also consider any statement you may have made at the time. If you say, for example, that you had seven beers at a friend's house before driving, the jury will learn of this fact in most cases. If you are with another passenger, who tells the police some fact or another, that statement may be admissible in court.
Evidence the Court or Jury Can Consider Regarding Chemical Testing
If you are subject to chemical testing, such as a breathalyzer or a blood or urine test, this evidence is also admissible and can be considered. The test results themselves, however, can be challenged. A skilled DUI attorney knows how to challenge the science, the methodology utilized, the protocols that are in place, calibration procedures, and other issues that may render the test results less than reliable.
Have You Been Charged with a DUI?
If you have been charged with a DUI, you need an experienced DUI attorney in your corner. Our Hall County DUI attorneys have the skill and experience you need to defend you in your DUI case. We offer complimentary consultations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You have nothing to lose. Call today at 404.816.4440.