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DUI Case Highlights from Paul Burglin San Francisco DUI Attorney - State v. Newman

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Some interesting cases relating to common California DUI defense issues have been published in the past few months. Some, such as the State v. Newman case below, are binding legal precedents that California courts must follow in drunk driving cases. Out-of-state decisions from state appellate courts are not binding on California Courts, but they are often looked to as persuasive precedent by trial judges presiding over DUI motions to suppress evidence and trial.

This is why it is important to have a Board-Certified DUI defense attorney in your corner who keeps abreast of these decisions, as they may impact your case.

State v. Newman , ___P.3d___ (2013 WL 2370589 (Or.) – Docket No. S060182

An element of proof for DUI conviction in Oregon is that the accused engaged in a volitional act that led to the driving. The trial court barred the defense from having an expert witness testify about “sleep driving" as part of a defense that defendant’s act of driving was not volitional.

“[T]he jury could have considered evidence that defendant engaged in the volitional act of drinking, if there were evidence that drinking led to the driving. However, the jury also could have concluded that defendant's “sleep driving" would have occurred without regard to whether he consumed alcohol and, thus, that defendant did not engage in a voluntary act which led to the act of driving.

“We note that ORS 161.095 provides that criminal liability may be imposed when conduct includes either a voluntary act `or the omission to perform an act which the person is capable of performing.’ Here, defendant's proffered testimony was that he had not, to his knowledge, engaged in “sleep driving" prior to this incident. On remand, if the state produces evidence to the contrary, a jury could conclude that defendant's failure to take adequate precautions was an omission to perform an act defendant is capable of performing under ORS 161.095(1) and, if supported by the evidence, that that failure to act led to the driving."

Defendant was entitled to adduce evidence that his act of driving was not volitional, and his expert witness should have been allowed to testify. It did note that the State is “entitled to present evidence that defendant's drinking or other volitional act resulted in defendant driving his vehicle that evening," or to “show a voluntary act with evidence that defendant had engaged in “sleep driving" prior to this incident and failed to take adequate precautions to remove access to his car keys."

California recognizes the “sleep driving" defense where the driver has an unanticipated reaction to medication taken as prescribed. This frequently happens with the use of Ambien.

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