Evidence is what a court looks for, to determine if you are guilty or innocent of a crime. If there is even a reasonable doubt that there is enough evidence to prove that you are guilty, then you will be acquitted of the charges against you.
However, evidence comes in all shapes and sizes. Some pieces of evidence weigh heavily against you. If you have been arrested and charged for driving under the influence, or DUI, one of these heavy pieces of evidence would be a breath test that said you had a blood alcohol content (BAC) far above the legal limit. While it is not insurmountable, this kind of evidence can be difficult to make a jury reasonably doubt.
Other pieces of evidence, however, are much lighter. The testimony of a driver who said that they saw you veer into another lane on the highway before you were pulled over is an example of a light piece of evidence. There are lots of reasons why a driver veers into another lane on the highway that do not involve driving under the influence.
Two other forms that evidence can take on are circumstantial evidence, and direct evidence.
Direct evidence is heavier than circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is a fact that gets straight to the point that someone is trying to make. If the prosecutor is trying to convict you for DUI, he or she has to show that you had a (BAC) at or above 0.08%. A properly administered and valid breath test that says you had a BAC of 0.11% when you were pulled over is an example of direct evidence.
Police like to gather as much direct evidence as possible, but often they still have to rely on circumstantial evidence, as well. Circumstantial evidence is a fact that cannot get straight to the point that someone is trying to make. Once again, to show that you are guilty of DUI, the prosecutor has to show that you had a BAC of at or above 0.08%. A police officer testifying that you were veering into another lane before they pulled you over says nothing about your BAC. It could say something about whether you were inebriated, or not, and this would have something to say about your BAC, but that extra step is what makes it merely circumstantial evidence.
There are lots of examples of circumstantial evidence, and law enforcement often tries to use all of them to convict you for DUI. It is, quite literally, their job. Unfortunately, when they are able to amass an imposing amount of circumstantial evidence, it can be very imposing. Listening to a prosecutor going through all of the circumstantial evidence that they have, all showing that you are guilty of DUI, can make you think that you do not have a chance, and can make a jury think that you are guilty, simply from the sheer volume of evidence against you.
This is exactly what the prosecutor is going for. It is easy, however, to overlook the fact that each and every piece of circumstantial evidence can be challenged, and brought into doubt. Raising doubts about whether a piece of evidence goes to show that you are guilty of a crime is, quite literally, a defense attorney's job. We see lots of circumstantial evidence, every single day, while defending against DUI charges.
Here are a handful of examples of circumstantial evidence that we come across on a regular basis.
A police officer testifies during trial that he saw you sitting on the side of the road, next to a vehicle. When he went over to see if everything was alright, he says, it was clear that you were drunk. The cop says that you had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and asked him where your cell phone was, while texting someone on it. When the officer examined the car next to you, he found that it was parked poorly, with one wheel over the curb. The policeman says that, when he asked you to do a field sobriety test, and stand on one leg, you fell over quickly, so he arrested you for drunk driving.
This may seem like a lot of evidence that you were driving under the influence. However, each and every piece of evidence is merely circumstantial, and does not go very far in proving that you were drunk driving.
For one thing, the officer never saw you drive. He was only inferring that you were driving, because you were near the car. However, he does not even know if the car was yours, or not. It could have been someone else's car, for all that he knows, and you just happened to have stopped and sat near it when the cop saw you. Additionally, even if the car was yours, the fact that it was parked poorly is still only circumstantial evidence that you drove it while under the influence. What is there, that says you were drunk when you parked it, or that you did not park it on your way to the bar? Nothing. You could even have been texting a friend to pick you up, after getting back to your car and realizing that it was not a good idea.
Even all of the evidence that you were drunk is merely circumstantial for a DUI charge. Being drunk is not a crime in the U.S. It is only a DUI crime if you have a BAC of at or above 0.08% while driving a vehicle. The officer's testimony has lots of parts about how drunk you were, but none of them is direct evidence that you were at or above the legal limit.
Circumstantial evidence is something that criminal defense attorneys enjoy seeing. Oftentimes, we can break through so much of it that the prosecutor is left with almost nothing left to convict you with. This is especially true, in the DUI context, where so much of the available evidence is merely circumstantial.
Call me at my law office at (404) 816-4440. My years of defending DUI cases has given me more than enough experience to fight through any circumstantial evidence behind the prosecutor's case against you.