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Court Explains What Evidence is Sufficient to Establish Washington DUI Crimes

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2023 | DUI and Evidence

In order to convict a person for a Tacoma Driving Under the Influence (DUI), the prosecution must demonstrate that the person operated a vehicle with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit or while under the influence of an intoxicant. To do so, the prosecution will usually rely on the results of a chemical test establishing the person’s blood alcohol level. If chemical tests are conducted too long after an alleged DUI offense occurred, though, the results of the test may be inadequate to demonstrate guilt. Recently, a Washington court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence to establish that a defendant committed a DUI crime in a case in which it ultimately upheld the defendant’s conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is critical to speak to a Tacoma DUI defense attorney about your possible defenses.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant consumed multiple alcoholic beverages during brunch with his wife before visiting a boat museum. On the way home, he crashed his vehicle with his wife in the passenger seat, resulting in her death. The state charged him with vehicular homicide. During the trial, the state presented evidence that the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration was above the legal limit within two hours of the accident.

It is reported that the state argued that even though the defendant’s blood was drawn more than two hours after the crash, an expert used retrograde extrapolation to demonstrate the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration within two hours of the accident, which led to his conviction. The defendant appealed the decision, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict him.

Evidence Sufficient to Establish DUI Crimes

On appeal, the court upheld the defendant’s guilty verdict. In doing so, the court explained that under Washington law, a person can be charged with vehicular homicide if their driving causes another person’s injury, and that person dies within three years as a result of that injury while the driver was under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The legal definition of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor is having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher within two hours after driving or driving while affected by intoxicating liquor.

Contrary to the defendant’s assertion, the court explained that the state can use blood samples obtained more than two hours after the alleged driving as evidence that the person had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving. Even without blood draw evidence, circumstantial evidence such as smelling alcohol on the driver’s breath or testimony from witnesses can be sufficient to establish that a person drove under the influence of alcohol.

In the subject case, the court found that expert testimony about the driver’s blood alcohol concentration was sufficient to demonstrate the defendant’s guilt, as was circumstantial evidence regarding his alcohol consumption, erratic driving, and odor of alcohol after the crash. Thus, it affirmed his conviction.

Meet with a Seasoned Tacoma Attorney

DUI crimes involving bodily injury or death carry significant penalties, but the state must meet a high burden of proof to demonstrate a defendant’s guilt. If you are accused of a DUI offense, it is wise to meet with an attorney about your options. The seasoned Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White dedicate their practice to helping people charged with crimes protect their interests, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a meeting.