Despite what prosecutors would have us believe, allegations of drunk driving are not always simple, and a DUI charge does not automatically lead to a conviction. Defendants have the right to challenge the legitimacy of the prosecution's evidence, which could be flawed if police failed to follow proper procedure or if the facts of the case don't match the charge.
Recently in Luzerne County, an Edwardsville man was acquitted of DUI charges. The case was somewhat controversial because the District Attorney's Office had sought to have the presiding judge removed because her husband had sued some arresting officers. The jury trial moved forward, however, and the accused 36-year-old was found not guilty of two counts of DUI.
According to police, unopened and open beer cans were found in a vehicle that had somehow become stuck on a street in Edwardsville in 2010. Apparently, the defendant was on the scene, and police claimed his blood-alcohol content was 0.19 percent.
During the trial, however, the man's father testified and referred to the vehicle in question as a "junker" that was hardly drivable. He also disclosed that his son was helping a friend by collecting beer cans to be cashed in at a scrap yard.
The jury was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the 2010 incident in question legally constituted DUI.
After the acquittal and after the jury had left the courtroom, the judge still found the defendant guilty of a summary violation related to alcohol restrictions. A conviction for DUI would have had more serious penalties.
The case is a reminder that a DUI charge is not the same thing as a conviction. Even when the prosecution has a significant amount of evidence, it may be possible to challenge that evidence and minimize any negative consequences for the defendant.
Source: timesleader.com, "Jury acquits man on drunken-driving charges," Edward Lewis, Dec. 8, 2013