State Supreme Court: DUI Doesn’t Require Driving

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on 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….

  • RichardAlan

    Wow, do you ever get that magical fantasy fairy tale feeling?

    After reading this, one very tuff question still remains: In the history of the USA and in the last lets say 75 years, and lets get even more specific; has a lawyer representing his client ever asked the prosecutor, judge and the arresting officer this one very simple question:

    “do you have or is there evidence of a complaining party”?

    without evidence of a complaining party or a corpus delecti there is no case, so why are the lawyers allowing this to happen?

    Where am I wrong? this is the first thing that came to my mind.

    what is the arresting officer “imagining” ??

  • David W

    Being this is the land of “equal opportunity”, it seems to me in order for this to be proper, “we the people ” ought to have a certain right in this decision..That being? The right to throw any public official or office holder “out of office” based on “individualized reasonable suspicion!

    Because thats what this ruling represents. After all, the people are suppose to have the final say. Or at least the Constitution indicated that the last time I checked the document..

    I knew West Virginia was a little behind, but what they’ve done is violate 2 major principles of law..Bottom line? He was arrested for drinking. And punished the way they decided fit..If there ever was a case that needs to get to the Supreme Court,,this is one of them..

  • David W

    Here’s the ruling for those interested. This is a case decided upon ” assumptions” favored in light of the Gov’t unless proven otherwise..That certainly is messed up. It basically says, if you don’t present evidence to the contrary of the beliefs of the State in an accusation against you, that the claims made will be considered valid..Yet, on the other hand, they claim that the defendant was not prejudiced in any way nor was the burden of proof to show he didn’t commit the offense put upon him…Did he operate the car to get to the location? probably. Had he consumed alcohol? Yes Was he in violation of the law when he operated the vehicle? Totally unknown, but since he did not offer testimony showing he wasn’t, it is considered that he did…At least Nevada or Arizona, can’t remember which, got this right. They held in their State a man could not be prosecuted or sanctioned for doing the right thing. Getting off the highway if he felt he was a risk to himself or others. Clearly this is what this guy did. And is being punished for doing the right thing. Conviction based on assumption and the “lack” of contrary evidence…Lovely..

  • RichardAlan

    The Government and the police brought these magical fantasy land charges so, is there evidence of a complaining party”?

    common sense tells us that there needs to be a complaining party, “corpus delecti” and a fair trial. We all know that lawyers prosecutors and judge’s are representing the state and are members of the Bar, we also know based on this rabbit hole ruling that we the people will not get a fair trial, the “we don’t need any evidence to put you in jail” routine is in full affect and we the people have allowed the fox to guard the hen house .

  • standup

    Innocent until proven guilty. Yeah, right…