What Must The State Prove To Get A Conviction For Driving Under The Influence?

The State must prove two independent elements beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain a conviction: (1) The Defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle; and (2) While driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle, the Defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired.

Diving into the first element of the crime, the State must prove that the Defendant drove a vehicle, which is defined as “every devise, in, upon or by which any person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” Simply put, that you were driving a car, truck, semi-truck, van, motorcycle, etc. on a roadway. Alternatively, the first element can be satisfied just by the person being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle, meaning that the person doesn’t even need to be driving. It’s enough to satisfy this element by the person being in or on the vehicle and simply having the capability to operate the vehicle. For example, even if your keys are not in the ignition and you are parked in a parking spot, you are still considered to be in actual physical control of your vehicle, and thus, satisfy the first element of the crime.

Moving on to the second element, it’s a common misconception that having a few drinks and getting behind the wheel makes a person guilty of DUI—which is far from the truth. The State must prove that the person was under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that their normal faculties were impaired, or in the alternative, that the Defendant had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more. Normal faculties include, but are not limited to, a person’s ability to “see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies and, in general, to normally perform the many mental and physical acts of our daily lives.” Therefore, just because an officer smells the impurities of alcohol on your breath doesn’t make you guilty of this crime without more. This is why it’s imperative you do your due diligence in hiring an experienced defense firm who will ensure that your constitutional rights weren’t violated.

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