Early in the evening client consumed food and 2-3 alcoholic mixed drinks at her residence. After some period of time, she decided to leave her residence and drove out of her neighborhood. She decided to return to her house and made an errant turn into a small business in an attempt to turn around. She missed the driveway and struck a fence surrounding the business causing some damage to a fence surrounding the business. Her vehicle became stuck in the shallow embankment surrounding the fence line. Because it was late and raining, client decided to stay in her vehicle and wait until she could report the fence damage to the business owner the following morning. At approximately 8:00 A.M., client called business owner and a tow truck. State Patrol arrived and arrested client for DUI, Striking a Fixed Object and Failure To Maintain Lane. Client's insurance covered the damages to the business' fence.
Law and Challenges
It is important to remember: It is unlawful for a person to drive OR be in actual physical control of a moving vehicle while under the influence to the extent it is less safe for that person to drive. Also, it is illegal for a person's alcohol concentration to be 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended. You can read the relevant section of the Georgia DUI statute here. This means that the State must prove that at the time you were driving you were less safe to drive because you had consumed alcohol or that your blood alcohol level was above 0.08 grams or more.
Summary The scenario presented in the above case is a very common scenario. It is usually clear that a person had consumed some amount of alcohol and driven a vehicle. What is not clear is whether any accident was caused by consumption of alcohol (i.e. being under the influence to the extent they were less safe to drive) or any other factor that may cause an accident; lack of attention, texting, other car pulled out in front, animal crossing the road, etc. It is not illegal to consume any amount of alcohol and then drive. In this case, there were no witnesses to describe the accident, driver's condition, appearance, or to inquire about the circumstances that lead the driver to strike the fence until at least 7 hours after the accident occurred. Also, there were no blood alcohol level tests performed such as a breath or a blood test. After reviewing the evidence in this case, the DUI charge was reduced to reckless driving, the striking a fixed object charge was dismissed and client was assessed a fine for failure to maintain lane. It is important to remember that there must be enough evidence for a jury to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a person was either less safe to drive because they had consumed alcohol before the time of the accident or they had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 grams or more within 3 hours of driving or being in control of the vehicle. There was not enough circumstantial evidence to show that in this case. The case was handled by William S. Hardman, Jr.