In 2016, over one million Americans were arrested for Driving Under the Influence. This is only roughly 1% of the 111 million self-reported instances of alcohol impaired driving in 2016. Under Nebraska law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level exceeding .08%.
This law may seem straight forward, but there is often misunderstanding surrounding the term “operate”. For instance, some believe that if they are in a parked car that is turned off, then they are not “operating” the motor vehicle. Under Nebraska DUI law, this is not always the case. In these situations, a prosecutor may use circumstantial evidence to convince a judge or jury that the defendant had been operating the vehicle while under the influence.
What is circumstantial evidence?
Circumstantial evidence are facts that, while innocent on their face, may raise an inference of some other fact relevant to a criminal case.
The facts surrounding each DUI case are substantially different. Common circumstances include the following: the presence of open alcohol containers in the car, the relation of the car to the nearest public road/traffic, where the car and occupant are parked (i.e. public or private property), the relation of the driver to the vehicle, and the warmth of the vehicles hood.
Location is key
In many cases, the location of the occupant and the vehicle’s ignition key are significant factors. For example, if an intoxicated occupant is found in the driver’s seat with the key in the ignition, this is often charged as a DUI, because it suggests the occupant recently operated the vehicle. Even if a sole occupant of a car claims to have been a passenger, but has possession of the keys, the court can still find this sufficient for a guilty verdict (see State V. Miller).
If you are unsure of your blood alcohol content, there are steps you can take to avoid a situation where you could be accused of driving under the influence. To avoid suspicion entirely, place your keys outside of the vehicle and rest in the backseat until you’re able to drive safely and legally. This should be a last resort though. If you’re ever unsure of your ability to drive safely and legally, it is always a good idea to use a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft.
How does circumstantial evidence impact a DUI case?
In conclusion, every DUI case is different, and the use of circumstantial evidence makes each case unique. Our attorneys have the knowledge, skills, and experience to help you define your goals and work toward the best possible result. If you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI, contact one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Berry Law.