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California allows circumstantial evidence in drunk driving cases


A new ruling from the State Supreme Court allows the consideration of circumstantial evidence in drunk driving cases.

The California Supreme Court recently handed down a ruling in a case involving a woman in Orange County. According to a story from NBC Los Angeles, the woman was arrested a few years ago on suspicion of drunk driving. Despite her insistence that she had not been drinking the Department of Motor Vehicles suspended her driver’s license. In turn, she sued the DMV.

The case hinged on information that showed her blood alcohol level right at the legal limit one hour post arrest. Her BAC rose thereafter. The State Supreme Court heard the case and agreed that officers’ observations could be taken into consideration in drunk driving cases. This is due in part because administrative cases must only be proven by a preponderance of evidence versus how criminal cases must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the case of this particular driver, the officer’s observation of the smell of alcohol on her breath, redness in her eyes and difficulties with field sobriety tests could be taken into account by the DMV.

Drunk driving realities

California understands the risks that drunk driving poses. Many times the choice to drink and drive leads to accidents that cause injury or even death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 2013 shows that in Los Angeles County that year, 174 people lost their lives in drunk driving accidents. No other county in the state experienced more drunk driving fatalities than Los Angeles County.

What drunk driving accidents look like

A drunk driving accident can take many forms. A hit-and-run, a head-on collision, impact with structures and more can all happen when drunk drivers are at the helm. In one recent situation, a man believed to be intoxicated ran into a Lancaster home after colliding with multiple parked cars on the street according to CBS Los Angeles. Inside the home he hit was a 71-year old woman asleep in her bed. The woman was killed by the impact. The driver has been charged with a felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter and remains in custody on a $1 million bond.

The Los Angeles Times reported on an alleged drunk driver that landed his vehicle in a flood control channel after hitting two fences. At least one person sustained serious injuries. The condition of others involved was not known.

NBC Los Angeles reported on a story from last year in which a man was driving his wife and four children with a blood alcohol level more than double the legal limit. He ran his vehicle so hard into an embankment wall that the back end of the SUV lifted and it went over the embankment. Three of the children were seriously injured and a five-year old girl died. After posting bail for DUI, vehicular manslaughter and child abuse charges, the man has fled and not been seen since.

What residents need to know

Drunk driving is serious and any accident caused by an impaired driver should be treated as such. Contacting an attorney as soon as possible in these situations is advised for all victims.

Keywords: drunk driving, accident, injury