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What the State Must Prove

In order for the State to convict you of driving while impaired, it must prove:

1.) You were operating a motor vehicle

2.) Upon any highway, street, or public vehicular area within the State

3.) With a .08 BAC from a blood or breathe test OR Under the influence of an impairing substance OR with any amount of a schedule I controlled substance in your system.

While these elements seem pretty straightforward there are several statutes and
case law that further interpret what these definitions actually mean.  An operator of a motor vehicle is defined as a person in actual physical control of a vehicle which is in motion or which has the engine running. This issue may arise when there was an accident and the State is attempting to prove that the defendant was the person operating the vehicle. Evidence or testimony that shows that defendant was merely in the vehicle but not in the driver’s seat while the engine was running would be insufficient to meet the definition of operator.

Further, a “vehicle” is not limited to merely a car, truck, or bus. Case law has interpreted a “vehicle” to mean a bicycle, a golf cart, a tractor, or a moped just to give a few examples. So be weary if you decide to hop on a bike after a night of drinking because you can very easily be charged with a DWI on a bicycle.

A highway or street is pretty self explanatory but the State could also prove that you were operating a vehicle on a “public vehicular area”. This term is very broad and can include just about any road that is open to the public, including beach roads and roads in gated communities.

There are essentially 3 different ways the State can prove impairment. The easiest is by proving that you registered a .08 or higher on a breathe alcohol test. The Intox EC/IR II is the current instrument used by chemical analysts to record a breathe alcohol measurement.  On the other hand, an alcasenor is a screening device used at the scene of the stop by law enforcement to establish probable cause for an arrest for DWI. Generally, the results of this breathe test commonly administered at the scene by the police is inadmissible in court to show impairment.

Another way the state can prove impairment is by proving, usually by an officer’s testimony, that the defendant’s mental or physical faculties, or both, were “appreciably impaired” or noticeably affected. This is often used when the defendant refuses to give a breathe test, when the impairing substance is something other than alcohol, or if the defense attorney successfully suppresses the results of the Intox EC/IR II.  The last way the State can prove impairment is by proving that there was a schedule I controlled substance in the defendant’s system. If the State proves that any opiates, opium derivatives, hallucinogenic substances, depressants, or stimulants were found in the defendant’s system by proof of a blood test, they may be able to prove impairment.

Raleigh DWI attorney Matthew Golden realizes that every DWI case he handles is accompanied by unique set of facts and circumstances. He will work hard to put the State to its burden of proving all of the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Contact him for a free consultation about your case.