A Look At Whether Impaired Driving Is An Essential Element of a DUI

The long and short of it is that “bad driving,” or more accurately, “impaired driving” is not a legal element of the charge of DUI in South Carolina. However, driving badly can be used as a piece of evidence and is something that we at the Steve Sumner Law Firm often concentrate on when we represent a client charged with DUI. A legal element of DUI is that the state must prove that a person’s “faculties were both materially and appreciably impaired.” Obviously, the best proof of this would be clear examples of bad driving on the part of the driver.

If there is evidence of impaired driving, things can change. Evidence can include statements by witnesses or even the police officer that the driver was operating the vehicle in an unruly manner, for example, weaving in and out of lanes or driving at suspicious speeds. But what if the driver exhibited no such driving evidence but was stopped by an officer for, say, a busted tail light, and upon contact, the officer thought the driver appeared high? It may boil down to the subjective evaluation of the officer. In cases like this, it’s up to the prosecution to prove the probable cause. Because of the subjective nature of witness testimony, an experienced DUI defense attorney may be able to get the charge dismissed.

I remember a case from November 2, 2010 that the New York Post published regarding a DUI manslaughter (felony DUI) criminal case in Fort Lauderdale, FL against former New York Yankee Jim Leyritz. Bruce Barger, who was a passenger in the car driven by Leyritz at the time of the accident, testified that as the vehicle was entering the intersection saying, “There is no question in my mind that the light was yellow.” As the trial unfolded, it was the sworn testimony being offered that Leyritz did not run a red light immediately before being involved in an accident killing the other driver that got him acquitted, proving witness testimony to be an important part of DUI trial cases.

Greenville, South Carolina DUI Attorney Steve Sumner primarily handles misdemeanor and felony DUI/drunk driving cases. Steve is a former DUI prosecutor and has been in private practice since 1994. Steve has been recognized as a South Carolina Super Lawyer® in the field of DUI defense since 2013. He is a member of the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers™ for criminal defense. He is a member of the National College for DUI Defense and has held a judicially endorsed AV-Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell® and a “Superb” (10.0 out 10.0) ranking with Avvo since 2011.