Judge Dismisses Charges in Centre County DUI

In a recent Centre County DUI case, a judge was required to determine whether or not the prosecutor had presented sufficient evidence to show that the suspect had been intoxicated to the extent that he was incapable of safe driving.  The charge was a bit outside the norm because the suspect had refused to submit to a blood draw.  With a blood draw, the police were unable to test blood to determine whether or not it contained drugs or alcohol.  In most DUI cases, the blood test results provide an alcohol level, and, if the level is above the legal limit, then the police have sufficient evidence to prove a DUI.  What happens when the suspect refuses a blood test so the police do not have forensic evidence of a blood alcohol level?  How do the police or prosecutor prove a DUI without any blood or breath test results?

Proving a DUI in a Blood Test Refusal Case

If a person refuses to submit to a blood draw or a breath test during a DUI investigation, the person can still be charged with a DUI.  For alcohol related DUIs, the charge is in violation of 75 Pa.C.S. 3802(a)(1).  The charge alleges that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and was “rendered incapable of safely driving,” basically saying that the person was too drunk to drive.  Without scientific tests to prove the level of intoxication, the police rely on circumstantial evidence of intoxication.  First, the officer must have evidence that alcohol was involved.  The officer will often testify about smelling an odor of alcohol on a person’s breath, and the driver may admit to having consumed alcohol earlier.

Second, the officer must have evidence that the intoxication was to a level that the person was too drunk to drive safely.  One great way to support this argument is if the driver was driving erratically, like swerving over the roadway.  Another indicator is how the driver stops the vehicle.  Does the driver respond to the lights and siren in a reasonable amount of time?  Does the driver use turn signals and stop the vehicle safely, or does the driver pull over and hit a curb?  Obviously, bad driving supports an argument that the driver was too drunk to drive safely.  An officer will often notice signs or symptoms of intoxication, such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and difficulty standing.  Officers encourage a suspect to perform field sobriety tests, and the performance on those tests often supports the police claim that the person was too drunk to drive safely.  Regrettably, many people could not pass the field sobriety tests even if they were sober.  A driver is NOT legally obligated to perform field sobriety tests, but many people attempt them, fail them, and the results are admissible evidence against them.  In this instance, the adage “it is better to have tried and failed than to not have tried at all” is NOT true.  It is better to have declined the invitation to perform the tests.

Centre County DUI Charges Dismissed

In the recent case, the police conducted the traffic stop because the driver had taillights that were not working properly and an expired registration, so no erratic or bad driving.  I do not believe that the trooper noticed any poor driving when the driver stopped his vehicle.  Because the driver refused to submit to a blood draw, the police did not have test results showing his level of intoxication.  After hearing all of the evidence, the judge felt that the police and prosecutor did not present sufficient evidence to prove that the driver was too drunk to drive safely, so the judge dismissed the DUI charges.

This man was lucky to have an experienced Centre County DUI attorney to provide representation.  The attorney knew the law, challenged the evidence, and secured a win for her client.  Experienced representation is critical in DUI and criminal cases.