Washington criminal defendants have numerous rights under the law, that aim to prevent unjust convictions. For example, the State must prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and if a defendant is convicted despite insufficient evidence to support a finding of guilt, his or her conviction may be reversed. A Washington court recently discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence in a case in which the defendant appealed his DUI conviction. If you live in Washington and are faced with DUI charges it is imperative to retain a trusted Washington DUI defense attorney to help you protect your rights.
Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Arrest
Reportedly, the defendant was stopped by a police officer after he crossed the center line on a road. The officer observed that the defendant had bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol. The defendant admitted to consuming two drinks, after which the officer asked to the defendant to exit the vehicle and undergo field sobriety tests. The defendant agreed and underwent field sobriety tests that he performed poorly. He was subsequently arrested and transported to the sheriff’s office. When he arrived at the sheriff’s office, he refused to submit to a breath test. The officer then obtained a warrant for a blood test.
Allegedly, the defendant was transported to a nearby hospital where his blood was drawn, approximately three hours after his initial stop. The test revealed the defendant’s BAC to be .23. he was charged with felony DUI. A toxicologist testified at trial that typically a person’s BAC would begin to decrease an hour after his or her last drink. The jury found the defendant guilty of DUI and specifically found that he had a BAC of .15 or higher within two hours of driving. The defendant appealed, arguing in part that the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sufficient Evidence to Establish Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
Under Washington law, evidence is sufficient to support a conviction if it would allow a rational person to find the essential elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, Washington criminal defendants have a right to a unanimous jury verdict. This right may also include the right to a unanimous verdict as to the means by which a crime was committed when a defendant is charged with an alternative means crime. An alternative means crime is a single crime for which there is more than one possible method of committing the crime.
Here, the court instructed the jury that to convict the defendant of DUI it must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed felony DUI by either driving while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or any drug, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, or that he had enough alcohol in his system to have a BAC of .08 or higher within two hours of driving. The jury was also instructed that it did not have to unanimously decide which alternative was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, as long as each juror found that one alternative had been proven.
The court stated that where there is sufficient evidence to support each of the charged alternative means, unanimity as to the means of committing the crime is not required. If there is inadequate evidence to support one of the means, however, a unanimous verdict is necessary. The court was not persuaded by the defendant’s argument that his conviction could not stand because there was insufficient evidence that his BAC was .08 or higher within two hours of driving. Specifically, the court found that a blood test within two hours of driving was not necessary to prove that alternative. Thus, the court affirmed the verdict.
Consult an Experienced Attorney Regarding Your Charges
Simply because you are charged with a crime does not mean the State has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction. If you are a Washington resident charged with a DUI you should consult an experienced Washington DUI defense attorney regarding your charges and what rights you have under the law. The skillful criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will aggressively advocate in your favor to help you preserve your liberties. You can contact us at 253-363-8662 or via our form online to set up a meeting regarding your charges.