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Rhode Island Attorney

The Driving Under the Influence Trial

The Driving Under the Influence Trial

Under the Constitutions of the United States of America and Rhode Island, all drivers charged with a DUI are presumed innocent and are entitled to a Driving Under the Influence Trial.  At the Driving Under the Influence Trial, it is the job of the prosecution to overcome that presumption of innocence by evidence and proof that establishes the driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This does not mean beyond all doubt or beyond the shadow of a doubt.  Therefore, the prosecution must convince the trier of fact, be it a jury or a judge sitting without a jury, that the driver operated a vehicle while so intoxicated that he could not safely operate his vehicle.  Moreover, the trier of fact must be so convinced by this evidence that it has no meaningful doubt in its mind about the driver’s guilt.

Under Rhode Island law, if the results of a Breath Test admitted into evidence at a Driving Under the Influence Trial shows results of a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, the driver is presumed guilty.  At this point it is important to understand that the prosecution does not need to establish a blood alcohol concentration of .08 at the Driving Under the Influence Trial.  It needs to prove that the driver was too intoxicated to safely operate a vehicle, regardless of the blood alcohol concentration level.  This means that the prosecution can try to prove its case at a Driving Under the Influence Trial even in the absence of a chemical test.

The guilty presumption caused by a Breath Test result greater than .08 blood alcohol concentration level reading is rebuttable.  This means that the driver can present evidence of sobriety or attack the accuracy and reliability of the Breath Test.  Ultimately the decision of whether or not the prosecution met its burden is at the DUI Trial is determined by a jury, or by a judge sitting without a jury.

In order to meet its burden the prosecution will (attempt) to introduce every bit of evidence it can to prove guilt.  Normally, the first witness called is the arresting police officer.  He is called to testify about his observations during the Pre-Arrest Stage and the Arrest Stage.  If a Breath Test was taken, the arresting officer testifies concerning the administration of that test, as well as the results.  Other witnesses the prosecution may call to testify include the Rhode Island Department of Health personnel to establish the “accuracy” of the Intoxilyzer 5000.

As a criminal defendant, the driver has the opportunity to confront and challenge the introduction of the prosecution’s evidence.  Ordinarily this takes the form of cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses.  It may also involve the introduction of defense witnesses, including expert witnesses to testify concerning the police officer’s administration of the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and/or the Breath Test.  Lastly, the driver can testify in his own defense, but can’t be compelled to do so, and no negative inference can be drawn from the driver’s decision to remain silent.