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Washington Court Discusses Evidence in DUI Cases

by | Oct 13, 2023 | DUI

In Washington, a defendant can be convicted of DUI crimes based on circumstantial evidence, such as the result of field sobriety testing, or direct evidence, such as a BAC level. Regardless of the character of the evidence presented, the prosecution must provide sufficient evidence that the defendant was operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to an extent that rendered them incapable of safe operation. If the prosecution is unable to meet this burden, the defendant should not be convicted. In a recent Washington ruling, the court elaborated on the sufficiency of evidence in a DUI case, ultimately sustaining the defendant’s conviction. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is smart to talk to a Tacoma DUI defense lawyer about what defenses you may be able to assert.

Procedural Background

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. He was convicted, after which he appealed. He raised several arguments on appeal, all of which the court rejected.

Evidence Sufficient to Establish Guilt in Washington DUI Cases

First, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the third element of his conviction, which required him to be operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol to a degree that rendered him incapable of safe operation. He argued that the arresting officer’s initial decision not to immediately pull him over undermined this element. However, the court disagreed and found that the evidence, when viewed favorably to the verdict, supported his conviction.

Second, the defendant raised Fourth Amendment concerns related to the stop and arrest. While he did not contest the initial stop based on reasonable suspicion, he questioned the subsequent actions of the rangers, including ordering him out of the vehicle at gunpoint. The court determined that these actions did not transform the stop into an arrest and further stated that the rangers had probable cause to arrest the defendant for driving under the influence by the time they handcuffed him.

Third, the defendant asserted a due process claim, alleging that he received misinformation from the arresting officer about the consequences of refusing a chemical breath test. However, the court pointed out that the defendant did not refuse a test, was not charged with refusal, and was not challenging a refusal-based charge or sentence. Therefore, his due process argument was dismissed, as he failed to demonstrate how accurate information about refusal consequences would have affected his conviction.

Finally, the defendant contended that testimony about the results of the horizontal gaze nystagmus field sobriety test was improperly admitted. The court acknowledged this claim but found any error to be harmless. It concluded that the strength of the evidence and the magistrate judge’s statements suggested that the admission of this testimony did not affect the verdict.

Speak to a Knowledgeable Tacoma Attorney

People charged with DUI crimes do not have to present any evidence in their defense, whereas the prosecution must meet a significant burden of proof to establish guilt. If you are charged with a DUI crime, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney.  The knowledgeable Tacoma criminal defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can inform you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best outcome possible. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at (253) 203-1645 to arrange a conference.