Archive for May 10th, 2010

State Supreme Court: DUI Doesn’t Require Driving

Monday, May 10th, 2010

 From today’s Alice-in-Wonderland department, this mind-boggling ruling from the Supreme Court of West Virginia:


West Virginia Supreme Court: DUI Does Not Require Proof Of Driving

Drunk driving fines may be imposed without proof that the accused ever drove, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled.

Wheeling, WV.  May 10 – State officials can punish an individual for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), even if they are unable to prove the accused was ever behind the wheel, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The decision came in the case of Eric R. Cain who was found lying passed out on in front of his car on Route 19 by Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Cole at around 2:30am on June 2, 2007. The car had been safely parked and there was no key in the ignition.

Cole arrested Cain for DUI after a breath test estimated Cain’s blood alcohol level at .15. Six days later, the state filed an order revoking Cain’s driver’s license for a full year. In addition, Cain was ordered to pay a number of fees, including the costs an alcohol education program. Cain appealed the administrative order, and a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) employee found him guilty. Cain appealed that judgment to circuit court Judge David Janes who overturned the DMV decision because the state could not prove Cain did not get drunk after he parked his car. The high court disagreed with Janes, asserting that state law allows police officers to impose certain forms of punishment based solely on reasonable suspicion that a crime may have taken place…

 Judge Janes had ruled that the arresting officer was obligated to identify specific facts and evidence that give rise to a reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed. Cain did not testify in his own defense at the administrative hearing, leaving no direct evidence that Cain had been driving while drunk. The supreme court ruled that the burden was properly on Cain to prove his innocence.

"The record is devoid of any factual basis for the arresting officer to believe that Mr. Cain consumed the alcohol he acknowledged drinking only after he parked the vehicle," Justice McHugh wrote. "The applicable burden of proof at a license revocation proceeding is ‘proof by a preponderance of the evidence.’ By citing the fact that Mr. Cain did not testify or present evidence on his behalf, the hearing examiner was not wrongly shifting the burden of proof to the appellee. Instead, the examiner was merely recognizing that the only evidence before him was the testimonial evidence of the arresting officer and the documentary evidence provided through the DUI Information sheet."

The supreme court reversed the circuit court ruling. 


So….Proof of driving under the influence doesn’t require evidence of driving — just a cop’s suspicion.  And as far as presumption of innocence and burden of proof, well…you lose if you don’t prove you weren’t driving.

Let me repeat from the news story:  " state law allows police officers to impose certain forms of punishment based solely on reasonable suspicion that a crime may have taken place."

Think about that….
 

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