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How small details in a criminal case can have a big impact

While the following story is from outside of New York and doesn't even apply to New York's laws, it is still a very interesting DUI story that highlights the effect of circumstantial evidence in DUI cases.

A woman in California was arrested in 2011 on the suspicion of driving under the influence. She would later plead guilty to a "wet reckless" charge, but what is interesting about her arrest is the fact that it was based largely on circumstantial evidence. Her blood alcohol content wasn't correctly measured until an hour after she was initially stopped by police, where she registered a 0.08 on a breath test. Moments later, another breath test was administered showing a 0.09 BAC. Finally, a blood test after the second breath test showed a BAC of 0.095.

Her BAC was rising an hour after she was initially stopped by police, who suspected she may have been driving drunk because she had red eyes, her car smelled of alcohol, and she struggled with field sobriety tests.

The woman challenged her license suspension, and this is where things get even more interesting. A toxicology professional agreed that the woman's rising BAC an hour after the initial stop means it was unlikely she was legally drunk when the police pulled her over. And yet, a DMV official -- in charge of the license suspension appeal -- rejected this notion and upheld the woman's license suspension. Further legal challenges supported the DMV official's ruling.

Ultimately, what this mean's is that California's Supreme Court accepts that circumstantial evidence is worthy of substantiating DUI suspicion or a DUI charge. The court did warn about the potential ramifications of this ruling though.

So what does this mean for you here in New York? Well, it's an important reminder that even the smallest facets of a criminal case can have a major impact on that case. This can hurt or benefit the accused person, but no matter which way it goes, it is important not underestimate these small details.

Source: San Clemente Patch, "Officer's Observations Can Be Used to Prove DUI, Supreme Court Rules in OC Case," Paige Austin, April 7, 2015

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