In order to be convicted of a crime, there must be evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed. In the case of a DWI, evidence would include blood alcohol test results, as well as either the arresting officer or witnesses actually seeing you drive recklessly or erratically.
What about circumstantial evidence? Can it be used to prove a DUI or DWI?
Circumstantial evidence consists of different and seemingly unrelated facts or information that do not actually prove that a crime occurred, but instead infer that a crime occurred. This type of evidence typically includes observations of an arresting officer.
If no one witnessed you driving, circumstantial evidence may conclude that you operated the vehicle if the vehicle’s hood was hot, if you were in the driver’s seat without any passengers, and if the car was on the side of the road. Even without direct evidence against you, the prosecutor may rely on circumstantial evidence to show that you were indeed driving while under the influence if your eyes were bloodshot, there was also a heavy odor of alcohol, and if you had difficulty completing the field sobriety tests.
Direct evidence, on the other hand, specifically shows that something is a fact. With direct evidence, the jury need not infer whether or not the defendant is guilty of the crime. Examples of direct evidence in a DWI would include a video recording of your driving erratically, the arresting officer seeing you swerve, a testimony from a reliable witness, or your blood alcohol test results showing a BAC level above .08 percent.
Many people wrongly believe that circumstantial evidence is simply a matter of a person being at the wrong place at the wrong time. They think that the prosecution has no case, and is basing a case on intangible evidence and even hearsay. It is also a misconception that circumstantial evidence carries less importance or weight compared to direct evidence. This is not entirely true, as circumstantial evidence can be more difficult to fabricate or suppress.
While circumstantial evidence is not considered indisputable, it can be particularly challenging for the accused. The danger lies with law enforcement officials thinking that all circumstantial evidence is considered strong enough. You must be able to successfully challenge the observations of the officer or present evidence that could possibly counter his or her observations. In the spirit of fairness, circumstantial evidence must be viewed in light of existing concrete evidence. If no real evidence exists, then circumstantial evidence should leave room for reasonable doubt.
A competent DWI attorney may need to closely examine all provided circumstantial evidence to see if there is proof of your driving conduct or evidence of your being in actual control of the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. If are you are being charged with DWI based on circumstantial evidence and you feel that the prosecution is treating you unfairly, it is imperative that you seek legal representation from a knowledgeable and experienced DWI attorney.