Admissible as Evidence in California DUI Cases
What is admissible as evidence in California DUI cases and what is not? Excellent question, as the one part of the criminal justice system that may be quite confusing to community members involves rules of evidence. To protect the rights of the accused and ensure fairness, rules of evidence in California criminal law cases are often complex. Not just anything that might be relevant can be introduced and used in the matter. Instead, courts will only allow evidence to be heard by a jury or used in the proceedings that is relevant, properly collected, and without possible undue prejudice. It is simply not acceptable for prosecutors to throw everything that they can think of at the defendant in hopes that something sticks.
In fact, perhaps the most important role played by our Santa Rosa DUI defense lawyers when working on a case, is ensuring that all inadmissible evidence is called out. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this role. That is because it is the duty of the defense attorney to actively ensure rules of evidence are enforced. If the prosecutor tries to introduce something that is not admissible but the defense attorneys stays quiet, then the evidence will enter. In other words, the lawyer must be a guard dog, vigorously fighting back all actions which impinge on the rights of the accused.
Admissible Evidence in California DUI Cases
In many cases, the real legal battle is waged not in front of a jury, but beforehand, when both side argue over the admissibility of evidence. For example, one story in the Sun Star recently discussed how a high-profile resident charged with DUI lost a fight over use of evidence against him.
The defendant was taken into shortly after midnight one night on suspicion of DUI. California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers responded to the man’s home after a witness reported seeing a SUV crash into a sheriff’s patrol car and the driver enter an area residence. At the scene, the CHP determined that neither vehicle was damaged, but noted that the two vehicles’ bumpers were touching and that one of the SUV’s wheels was resting on a curb. Officers spoke to the man at his residence, where they determined that he was the driver of the SUV and was under the influence of alcohol.As part of their investigation, CHP officers asked the defendant to step outside his home.
The defense attorney in the case argued that the CHP conducted an unreasonable search by asking the man to exit the house. The trial court agreed, and granted the defense’s suppression motion. The evidence at issue included statements by the defendant under questioning by the arresting officers, the results of field sobriety tests conducted by the CHP at the time of the incident, and breathalyzer tests. Several breathalyzer tests pegged his blood alcohol content at 0.13.
Those trial court ruling on the admissibility of evidence were appealed.
However, on appeal, the state emerged victorious. The appellate court sided with the Attorney General’s Office, who argued that, based upon the evidence at the scene, including the erratic parking of the SUV and the clear presence of empty beer cans inside the SUV, officers had reasonable suspicion of the driver of the SUV being under the influence.
In order to arrest the defendant legally, the law required the CHP officers to have a reasonable suspicion that he was under the influence. The standard for an investigation is relatively low, and can be as an admission by the subject that he or she had consumed any alcohol at all that night. Once the officer has probable cause for an investigation, the standard for detaining or arresting an individual is higher. This may include evidence like: an open container of alcohol in the car, the smell of an alcoholic beverage on the subject’s breath, or red or watery eyes or a flushed face. In this case, CHP officers observed empty beer cans in his SUV.
Based on this, they conducted an investigation, which resulted in the sergeant failing field sobriety tests.
Now that the evidence is back in play, the defendant will likely have a higher hurdle to climb to beat the charges.
Legal DUI Help in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties
The laws regarding DUI exist to protect everyone on the roads. The criminal system, however, exists to protect everyone accused of a crime from the mistakes or overzealous actions of law enforcement and prosecutors. If you’ve been accused of DUI and you believe you were not under the influence, or that you were inappropriately stopped or searched, it is imperative to consult a qualified California DUI attorney. Our Santa Rosa DUI attorneys can advise you about your rights and the options that are available to you to set up a plan for your best defense.
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